Definition of err
- erred in his calculations
- erred on the side of caution
I may have erred in my calculations.
The court erred in refusing to allow bail.
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.
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.
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
What made you want to look up err? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).