\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Noah Greenspan, a cardiopulmonary physical therapist in New York City who works with people suffering from the long-term effects of Covid, said it’s important to err on the side of caution, especially with surging cases across the country., 25 July 2021 The weather in coastal Lima almost always plays nice—but cloudy days are typical and temperatures err on the cool side thanks to cold water currents in the Pacific Ocean. Megan Wood, Travel + Leisure, 9 Sep. 2021 Stefanski will likely err on the side of caution again and hold out Baker Mayfield and the majority of starters again. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland, 23 Aug. 2021 All of this deserves headlines, which, by their nature, err on the side of provocation. Kent Sepkowitz, CNN, 2 Aug. 2021 The answer may be that the country superstar just wants to err on the extreme side of caution, especially having had his wife, Trisha Yearwood, be one of the many celebrities who has come through a case of COVID. Chris Willman, Variety, 19 Aug. 2021 Under the circumstances, the Fed would do well to err on the side of caution. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 13 Aug. 2021 Some coaches attain success with a defensive mind-set, hoping to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes, making sure their teams err on the side of caution., 10 Aug. 2021 On sunny days, the temperature inside a closed cold frame can get hot enough to ruin these cool-season crops, so always err on the side of venting too much than too little. Rita Pelczar, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Aug. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About err

Time Traveler for err

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near err




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for err

Last Updated

26 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Err.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for err



English Language Learners Definition of err

: to make a mistake


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

Kids Definition of err

: to make a mistake


intransitive verb
\ ˈer, ˈər How to pronounce err (audio) \

Legal Definition of err

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

More from Merriam-Webster on err

Nglish: Translation of err for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of err for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!