\ ˈer How to pronounce err (audio) , ˈər How to pronounce err (audio) \
erred; erring; errs

Definition of err

intransitive verb

1a : to make a mistake erred in his calculations erred on the side of caution
b : to violate an accepted standard of conduct
2 archaic : stray

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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

When Ahmed suggested that the company had erred in including a presenter with a history of sexist social media postings in its Women’s World Cup promotion video, Copa 90 released a statement distancing itself from the posts. Tariq Panja, New York Times, "World Cup Reporters Find Huge Audiences and Familiar Challenges," 4 July 2019 The appeals court did side with Paragon in determining that a lower court judge erred in assigning Paragon Contractors a special master to monitor the company. Washington Post, "Polygamous town contractor must pay $1M to child workers," 3 July 2019 He was convicted and sentenced to death, but the state high court ruled again that the prosecutor had erred by introducing other evidence. David G. Savage,, "Curtis Flowers murder conviction is overturned. Supreme Court cites bias against black defendant in Mississippi," 21 June 2019 For years, the Heat's training and medical staffs have opted to err on the side of caution. Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Has Heat medical prudence been justified by Durant situation?," 12 June 2019 Be Smart and Aware Just like with any other large festival or parade, the likelihood of something bad happening is low due to police presence and awesome volunteers—*but* erring on the side of caution is always the way to go, fam. Seventeen, "How to Prep For Your First Pride Parade," 14 June 2019 But Stone said after filing the motion earlier this year that the state erred in dropping four counts of first-degree murder just two days prior to Brocksom’s conviction. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Man convicted of Gurnee murder last fall might finally be sentenced next month," 7 June 2019 Luckily, fans won’t have to wait that long to see Steve Trevor...err Chris Pine on screen again., "Chris Pine’s New Show Is Basically True Detective: Wonder Woman & We're All In," 4 July 2018 Things seem decidedly smooth until the jealous Yuri Gaga... err Leftkin in the film... lands on this fantastical planet. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Laika: Forget historic tragedy, this first space dog saves alien planets," 14 Oct. 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 2

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

8 Jul 2019

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

formal : to make a mistake


\ ˈer How to pronounce err (audio) , ˈər\
erred; erring

Kids Definition of err

: to make a mistake
\ ˈer, ˈər How to pronounce err (audio) \

Legal Definition of err

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on err

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with err

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for err

Spanish Central: Translation of err

Nglish: Translation of err for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of err for Arabic Speakers

Comments on err

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