noun er·ror \ ˈer-ər , ˈe-rər \
|Updated on: 15 Aug 2018

Definition of error

1 a : an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior
b : an act involving an unintentional deviation from truth or accuracy
  • made an error in adding up the bill
c : an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done
  • an error in judgment
: such as
(1) : a defensive misplay other than a wild pitch or passed ball made by a baseball player when normal play would have resulted in an out or prevented an advance by a base runner
(2) : the failure of a player (as in tennis) to make a successful return of a ball during play
d : a mistake in the proceedings of a court of record in matters of law or of fact
2 a : the quality or state of erring
  • the map is in error
b Christian Science : illusion about the nature of reality that is the cause of human suffering : the contradiction of truth
c : an instance of false belief
3 : something produced by mistake
  • a typographical error
; especially : a postage stamp exhibiting a consistent flaw (such as a wrong color) in its manufacture
4 a : the difference between an observed or calculated value and a true value; specifically : variation in measurements, calculations, or observations of a quantity due to mistakes or to uncontrollable factors
b : the amount of deviation from a standard or specification
5 : a deficiency or imperfection in structure or function
  • an error of metabolism


play \ˈer-ər-ləs, ˈe-rər-\ adjective

Examples of error in a Sentence

  1. I made an error in my calculations.

  2. They uncovered several errors in his report to the committee.

  3. The paper contains numerous spelling errors.

  4. horrifying cases of hospital error

  5. The shortstop was charged with an error.

Recent Examples of error from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'error.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of error

Middle English errour, from Anglo-French, from Latin error, from errare

Synonym Discussion of error

error, mistake, blunder, slip, lapse mean a departure from what is true, right, or proper. error suggests the existence of a standard or guide and a straying from the right course through failure to make effective use of this.
    • procedural errors
mistake implies misconception or inadvertence and usually expresses less criticism than error.
    • dialed the wrong number by mistake
blunder regularly imputes stupidity or ignorance as a cause and connotes some degree of blame.
    • diplomatic blunders
slip stresses inadvertence or accident and applies especially to trivial but embarrassing mistakes.
    • a slip of the tongue
lapse stresses forgetfulness, weakness, or inattention as a cause.
    • a lapse in judgment

ERROR Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of error for English Language Learners

  • : something that is not correct : a wrong action or statement

  • : a mistake made by a person who is playing a sport (such as baseball or tennis)

ERROR Defined for Kids


noun er·ror \ ˈer-ər \

Definition of error for Students

: a failure to be correct or accurate : mistake
  • He made an error in spelling.

Synonym Discussion of error

error, mistake, and blunder mean an act or statement that is not right or true or proper. error is used for failure to follow a model correctly.
    • There was an error in the addition.
mistake is used when someone misunderstands something or does not intend to do wrong.
    • I took someone else's coat by mistake.
blunder is used for a stupid, careless, or thoughtless mistake.
    • The actors made several blunders during the play.

Medical Dictionary


noun er·ror \ ˈer-ər \

medical Definition of error

: a deficiency or imperfection in structure or function
  • inborn errors of metabolism

Law Dictionary


noun er·ror

legal Definition of error

: an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done
  • procedural errors
; especially : a mistake made by a lower court in conducting judicial proceedings or making findings in a case
  • to compel to conclusion that a manifest error has been done
  • Moses v. Burgin, 445 F.2d 369 (1971)
often used without an article
  • had been error to give the jury special interrogatories
  • —K. A. Cohen
; — see also assignment of error, clearly erroneous
Note: Generally a party must object to an error at trial in order to raise it as an issue on appeal.
clear error
: an error made by a judge in his or her findings of fact which is such that it leaves the reviewing court with the firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made
Note: A clear error may or may not warrant reversal.
fundamental error
: plain error in this entry used especially in criminal cases
harmless error
: an error that does not affect a substantial right or change the outcome of a trial and does not warrant reversal or other modification of the lower court's decision on appeal
invited error
: an error resulting from a party's own request for or encouragement of an action by the court
Note: A party may not seek relief based on invited error that he or she has induced.
manifest error
: an error that is obvious and indisputable and that warrants reversal on appeal
plain error
: an obvious and prejudicial error that affects the substantial rights of the parties and that results or probably results in a miscarriage of justice
Note: Plain error warrants reversal on appeal even in the absence of objection to the error at trial.
prejudicial error
: an error that affects or presumptively affects the outcome of a trial
reversible error
: a substantial and prejudicial error warranting reversal on appeal

Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


excessive admiration or flattery

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet-pasta-spelling-help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


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!