\ 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 Locsin proposed a review of the agreement to fix contentious issues, including criminal jurisdiction over erring American troops, instead of abrogating it. Jim Gomez, Anchorage Daily News, "Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact allowing US forces to train in the country," 11 Feb. 2020 Locsin proposed a review of the agreement to fix contentious issues, including criminal jurisdiction over erring American troops, instead of abrogating it. NBC News, "Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact," 11 Feb. 2020 Experts are erring on the side of caution by recommending the upper end of that 14-day period for monitoring and quarantines, health experts say. Brianna Abbott, WSJ, "Health Officials Err on Side of Caution to Contain Viral Outbreak," 3 Feb. 2020 The trend ultimately continued, Thiem erring to crucially concede serve at 1-2. Ravi Ubha, CNN, "Novak Djokovic rallies to win his eighth Australian Open title after beating Dominic Thiem in tense final," 2 Feb. 2020 Conciseness appeared to factor in for a few adult books on the list as well: Both and the fifth-place winner, Harper Lee’s err on the shorter ends of their genres. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "New York Public Library Announces Its Most Borrowed Books of All Time," 14 Jan. 2020 The Lowdown: The RS470 shoots up to 470 fps., and knowing that TenPoint bolts err on the heavy side means that this is probably the most powerful crossbow on the market. Will Brantley, Field & Stream, "The Best New Crossbows of the 2020 Archery Trade Show," 13 Jan. 2020 In other words, erring on the side of caution is not a bad survival technique. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "Cougar or not? Why we think we see big cats in our backyards.," 18 Nov. 2019 That made sense at the time, because the Pac-12 … err, Pac-10 … was absolutely rolling. Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, "Dear USC president Carol Folt: A (very real made up) letter from Pac-12 constituents," 18 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.

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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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Learn More about err

Time Traveler for err

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for err

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Err.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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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

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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

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