err

verb
\ 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

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 Carvalhal probably should be given a chance at building a bit of a legacy in Swansea, but erring on the side of caution would be a wise decision. SI.com, "FanView: Carvalhal Has Done a Great Job at Swansea But There's Reason to Hesitate on a New Deal," 11 Apr. 2018 Even Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged that Chancellor Angela Merkel erred by admitting a million Middle Eastern migrants in 2015. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Storming the Southern Border," 26 Nov. 2018 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Wednesday that a lower court erred by overturning the conviction of Sam Ukwuachu (oo-kuh-WAH'-choo) based on text messages between the victim and a friend that had not been allowed in trial. Fox News, "Texas court reinstates Baylor sex assault conviction," 6 June 2018 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said a lower court erred by overturning the conviction of Sam Ukwuachu based on text messages between the victim and a friend that had not been allowed in trial. Jim Vertuno, Houston Chronicle, "Texas court reinstates ex-Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu's sex assault conviction," 6 June 2018 Much like Carter’s critics, Eizenstat believes the president erred by holing up in the White House consumed by the impasse while taking even the theoretical threat of military force off the table. Peter Baker, New York Times, "Was Jimmy Carter the Most Underrated President in History?," 5 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

23 Apr 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

err

verb

English Language Learners Definition of err

formal : to make a mistake

err

verb
\ 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

Comments on err

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