the part of a cargo producing revenue or income, usually expressed in weight.
the number of paying passengers, as on an airplane.
Aerospace, Military.
the bomb load, warhead, cargo, or passengers of an aircraft, a rocket, missile, etc., for delivery at a target or destination.
the total complement of equipment carried by a spacecraft for the performance of a particular mission in space.
the explosive energy of the warhead of a missile or of the bomb load of an aircraft: a payload of 50 megatons.

1925–30; pay1 + load Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
payload (ˈpeɪˌləʊd)
1.  that part of a cargo earning revenue
2.  a.  the passengers, cargo, or bombs carried by an aircraft
 b.  the equipment carried by a rocket, satellite, or spacecraft
3.  the explosive power of a warhead, bomb, etc, carried by a missile or aircraft: a missile carrying a 50-megaton payload

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1930, from pay (n. or v.) + load (n.). Originally the part of an aircraft's load from which revenue is derived (passengers, cargo, mail); fig. sense of "bombs, etc. carried by a plane or missile" is from 1936.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Of course, the ideal vessel should have lines as noble as the surroundings and
  room for a payload of toys.
Every minute or so, a new one pulls up ahead of the paving machines to release
  a flood of wet concrete from its payload.
Increasingly, tourists and adventure seekers have become the payload for scenic
  rides along formerly industrial tracks.
The loss of power will reduce significantly the payload they can carry-possibly
  to the point of making them useless.
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