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.

Example Sentences

I may have erred in my calculations. The court erred in refusing to allow bail.
Recent Examples on the Web The Australian actor’s sartorial choices tend to err on the demure side, but her latest appearance threw fans a fashion curveball. Alex Kessler, Vogue, 16 Dec. 2022 Of course, the church cannot err in matters of faith. D.g. Hart, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2022 Each Spoke & Weal location continues to err on the side of caution by offering virtual consultations via Zoom (or FaceTime upon request!). Chelsea Hall, ELLE, 23 Dec. 2022 In a world where the pendulum of celebrity behavior often swings between ironic detachment and precious earnestness that can err toward pretention, Fahy’s sincerity is refreshing. Bolu Babalola, Harper's BAZAAR, 6 Dec. 2022 But with the Fed committed to preventing inflation from becoming entrenched, policymakers are likely to err on the side of doing too much rather than too little. Bloomberg, Arkansas Online, 5 Dec. 2022 Coach Joe Mazzulla said that after Horford played 40 minutes in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Cavaliers and 33 in Friday’s win over the Bulls, the Celtics wanted to err on the side of caution while playing their second game in as many nights. Adam Himmelsbach,, 5 Nov. 2022 The curators seem willing to err in that direction. Travis Diehl, New York Times, 3 Nov. 2022 Port officials said the situation was extremely confusing and decided to err on the side of energy conservation. Tony Briscoestaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 17 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

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 9 Feb. 2023.

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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