\ 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

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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

Luckily, fans won’t have to wait that long to see Steve Trevor...err Chris Pine on screen again., "Chris Pine’s New Show Is Basically True Detective: Wonder Woman & We're All In," 4 July 2018 Things seem decidedly smooth until the jealous Yuri Gaga... err Leftkin in the film... lands on this fantastical planet. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Laika: Forget historic tragedy, this first space dog saves alien planets," 14 Oct. 2018 Watching the Cohen case unfold over the past few months, Mr. Goldberg said that Mr. Giuliani erred in providing different accounts of Mr. Cohen’s trustworthiness. Peter Nicholas, WSJ, "Trump Faults Former Lawyer for Writing Book, Says It May Violate Attorney-Client Privilege," 14 Sep. 2018 The former Michigan State University employee and USA Gymnastics team physician argued Aquilina erred in increasing his sentence. Fox News, "Judge denies Larry Nassar bid for new sentence," 27 Aug. 2018 Perhaps Tigers general manager Al Avila was simply told MLB replay officials in New York erred in the length of review. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "MLB, Ron Gardenhire give conflicting versions of overturned call," 2 Apr. 2018 The lawsuit argues that Remington — along with a wholesaler and dealer, which were also named in the suit — erred by entrusting an untrained civilian public with a weapon designed for maximizing fatalities on the battlefield. Kristin Hussey And Rick Rojas, New York Times, "Remington’s Bankruptcy Stalls Ruling in Sandy Hook Families’ Suit," 1 Apr. 2018 Historically, the city of Sacramento encouraged people to err on the side of throwing more, not less, into the recycling bin. Ed Fletcher, sacbee, "If there’s trash in your recycling bin, you may face fines as costs rise for contaminated loads | The Sacramento Bee," 12 Mar. 2018 That is extremely relevant evidence when considering if that immigration policy is unconstitutional due to religious bias, and the majority erred profoundly in disregarding it. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Sotomayor read Trump’s tweets too and wants to know why the rest of the Supreme Court didn’t.," 26 June 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for err

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for err

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

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More Definitions for err



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

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More from Merriam-Webster on err

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with err

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for err

Spanish Central: Translation of err

Nglish: Translation of err for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of err for Arabic Speakers

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