\ 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 And harsh penalties will create incentives for firms to err on the side of heavy-handedness. The Economist, "Countries are increasingly willing to censor speech online," 7 Nov. 2019 Though the Tigers erred in passing on bounties for him in the past, electing to roll the dice on his red-flag injury concerns, Fulmer will have enough time to rebuild a semblance of trade value. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' most important players for future: How Michael Fulmer can rebuild value," 5 Nov. 2019 Instead, work with the local authorities, just to err on the side of caution. Marc Saltzman, USA TODAY, "Using technology while you travel makes sense, but avoid these big mistakes," 2 Nov. 2019 The suspension was later revoked, which resulted in accusations that the airline was lenient towards erring pilots. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Troubled Air India now faces five new hurdles ahead of its divestment," 14 Oct. 2019 Faced with a stark real-world test, though, Facebook appears once again to be erring on the side of letting misinformation circulate far and wide if a politician promotes it. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Political ads can lie if they want, Facebook confirms," 10 Oct. 2019 But Burrell rejected several other instances where U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes found that Mojaddidi had erred. Fox News, "Judge overturns California man's 2006 terror conviction," 31 July 2019 Lawyers and consumer advocates say that for decades, many investment advisers have erred on the side of caution and avoided conflicts that pitted them against clients. Lisa Beilfuss, WSJ, "Confused About Financial Advisers? You’re Not Alone," 15 June 2019 Don’t hang too high Griffin said people usually err on the side of hanging lights too high, rather than too low. Real Estate, "5 ways the right lighting can elevate a home," 12 Sep. 2019

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

Statistics for err

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for err

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for err


How to pronounce err (audio) How to pronounce err (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on err

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for err

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with err

Spanish Central: Translation of err

Nglish: Translation of err for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of err for Arabic Speakers

Comments on err

What made you want to look up err? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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