\ˈer, ˈər \
erred; erring; errs

Definition of err 

intransitive verb

1 archaic : stray

2a : to make a mistake erred in his calculations erred on the side of caution

b : to violate an accepted standard of conduct

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Is it human to err?

Many people are familiar with the word err from encountering it in the epigram “to err is human; to forgive, divine.” This phrase is found in Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism, from 1711. Earlier expressions of the same sentiment exist, as in Thomas Jones’ 1678 book, Of the Heart, and its Right Soveraign, which contains the line “to err, is human, to recover, is Angelical; to persevere is Diabolical.”

Err is also often found in the phrase err on the side of caution, to suggest that being overly cautious is better than not being cautious enough.

Err stems from the Latin word errare, meaning “to stray, wander,” and it retained that meaning when it first entered English. We find the same Latin ancestor at the root of the words error, erratic, and erroneous.

Examples of err in a Sentence

I may have erred in my calculations. The court erred in refusing to allow bail.

Recent Examples on the Web

The table linens, from Cloth Connection, were crucial for anchoring the table with a traditional design that could also err contemporary. Kelsey Kloss, ELLE Decor, "This Greek Luncheon Tablescape Celebrates Easter Decorations Without Becoming Cliché," 24 Feb. 2017 Who do insurers hold liable when an autonomous vehicle errs? Jason Laughlin,, "The nation's top highway official talks self driving cars," 28 June 2018 Claire, Katie, and Zoey did a great job of creating true characters that err on the side of honesty. Joanna Robinson, HWD, "Set It Up’s Glen Powell Invites You to “Netflix and Chill” with His New Rom-Com," 14 June 2018 For the most part, parole boards err on the side of conservative decisions, hoping to avoid the nightmare scenario of releasing a killer who then kills again. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s secretive parole board has almost unlimited power to release prisoners before their sentences are up. It has never been busier.," 17 June 2018 For the rest, the NBS must make educated guesses, which will err on the side of continuity. The Economist, "China’s statistics are bad. Many criticisms of them are worse," 7 July 2018 For cellphone users who err on the side of caution, there’s the SafeSleeve, an anti-radiation case for phones, tablets and laptops that was tested in a lab accredited by the Federal Communications Commission. Kavita Daswani,, "Father's Day gift ideas for the fitness-minded dad," 8 June 2018 Naitore Djigbenou, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Cabinet, said the state department of vehicle regulations erred in interpreting the statue in Burton's case. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Prayers answered: Woman can continue using 'PRAY' on license plate," 12 July 2018 He and his attorneys would need to show that Judge Budzinski erred in a way that influenced the outcome of the trial. Michael Mccann,, "What Were the Key Factors Behind CM Punk Winning His Defamation Trial?," 5 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'err.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of err

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for err

Middle English, from Anglo-French errer, from Latin errare to wander, err; akin to Old English ierre wandering, perverse, Goth airzeis deceived

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Statistics for err

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for err

The first known use of err was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for err



English Language Learners Definition of err

: to make a mistake


\ˈer, ˈər\
erred; erring

Kids Definition of err

: to make a mistake

\ˈer, ˈər \

Legal Definition of err 

: to make an error the court erred in denying the motion

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Comments on err

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