Posted by: episystechpubs | November 19, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Pilot

I received a call from my brother yesterday, who started his call with an apology. He didnt drunk dial, but hed been riding his motorcycle in the frosty northwest air and said his brain was frozen. He began musing about the word pilot, because hed been driving behind a Honda Pilot. What an odd looking word, he said. I was wondering what the etymology could be since there are so many ways we use the wordpilots fly, there are pilot screws, pilot lights. And what about Pontius Pilate? What the heck is that all about?

This Editors Corner is for my dear brother, Fritz. You may be getting a dictionary for Christmas. J

From Merriam-Webster:

pilot (noun)

1. a: one employed to steer a ship
b: a person who is duly qualified and usually licensed to conduct a ship into and out of a port or in special waters, often for fixed fees and who while in charge has the whole conduct of her navigation
c: a book giving detailed navigational information of a body of water and the adjacent coastline

2. a guide who leads along a difficult or unknown course: one who takes charge during dangerous or unsettled times: a leader who inspires

3. Menominee whitefish

4. a: an inclined triangular frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for removing obstacles from the track also called a cowcatcher
b: a locomotive engineer assigned to assist in operating a train over track with which the regular engineer is unfamiliar

5. one who flies or is qualified to fly an airplane

6. a: a cylindrical projection at the end of a tool (as a counterbore, countersink, boring rod) to guide it
b: a bar or simple element acting as a guide or relay for another mechanical element
c: an auxiliary mechanism that actuates, energizes, governs, or regulates another mechanism <a pilot-operated sliding disk valve>

7. the relatively small heading or excavation first made in the driving of a larger tunnel

8. the manager of a baseball team

9. a television show produced as a sample of a proposed series

10. pilot light: a small permanent flame used to ignite gas at a burner

Origin of PILOT

Middle French pilote, from Italian pilota, alteration of pedota, from (assumed) Middle Greek pdts, from Greek pda steering oars, rudder, plural of pdon oar

And additional etymological information from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

pilot (n.)

1510s, "one who steers a ship," from Middle French pillote (16c.), from Italian piloto, supposed to be an alteration of Old Italian pedoto, which usually is said to be from Medieval Greek *pedotes "rudder, helmsman," from Greek pedon "steering oar," related to pous (genitive podos) "foot" (see foot (n.)). Change of -d- to -l- in Latin ("Sabine -l-") parallels that in odor/olfactory; see lachrymose.

Sense extended 1848 to "one who controls a balloon," and 1907 to "one who flies an airplane." As an adjective, 1788 as "pertaining to a pilot;" from 1928 as "serving as a prototype." Thus the noun pilot meaning "pilot episode" (etc.), attested from 1962. Pilot light is from 1890.

pilot (v.)

1640s, "to guide, lead;" 1690s, "to conduct as a pilot," from pilot (n.) or from French piloter. Related: Piloted; piloting.

pilot-fish (n.)

1630s, from pilot (n.) + fish (n.). So called because they were thought to lead sharks to prey.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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