erred; erring; errs

intransitive verb

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

Did you know?

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 However, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, two conservative justices who often vote together in consequential cases, suggested during April oral arguments that the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit may have erred in its approach. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner - Political News and Conservative Analysis About Congress, the President, and the Federal Government, 1 July 2024 In other years, the Academy erred in being too lenient. Paul Grein, Billboard, 25 June 2024 Second, to err once is forgivable and even sometimes understandable. Rabbi Avi Weiss, Sun Sentinel, 24 June 2024 At 56, Roberts has long stuck to her beauty signatures, always erring on the natural side, so her new cut and color are notable. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 19 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for err 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'err.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near err

Cite this Entry

“Err.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to make a mistake
erred in my calculations
: to do wrong : sin

Legal Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on err

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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