erred; erring; errs

intransitive verb

: to make a mistake
erred in his calculations
erred on the side of caution
: to violate an accepted standard of conduct
archaic : stray

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

I may have erred in my calculations. The court erred in refusing to allow bail.
Recent Examples on the Web The best advice is often the simplest: When in doubt, err on the side of caution and comfort. Hanna Lustig, Glamour, 3 Nov. 2022 The minutes showed that the policymakers preferred to err on the side of raising rates too high, rather than raising them too little and risk perpetuating high inflation. Arkansas Online, 1 Nov. 2022 The minutes showed that the policymakers preferred to err on the side of raising rates too high, rather than raising them too little and risk perpetuating high inflation. Christopher Rugaber, Fortune, 31 Oct. 2022 The central bank has been very clear about its plan to err on the side of going too far in order to tame inflation, which means the big gains on hopes of a pullback seem premature, said Liz Young, chief investment strategist at SoFi. Damian J. Troise, Fortune, 29 Oct. 2022 There were times last season, Finch said, when he was tempted to err on the side of rest with his young Timberwolves team. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 28 Oct. 2022 For trips from the U.S. to Europe, Google Flights suggests to err on the early side – 129 days, or almost five months, ahead will provide the best deals. Zach Wichter, USA TODAY, 25 Oct. 2022 There’s a fine line between a well-set table and a stuffy, overly formal one, and Garten likes to err on the side of simple elegance. Amiel Stanek, Bon Appétit, 25 Oct. 2022 But the league doesn’t plan to soften its interpretation of the rule and will continue to allow referees to err on the side of caution in order to protect quarterbacks. Rob Maaddi,, 17 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French errer, from Latin errare to wander, err; akin to Old English ierre wandering, perverse, Goth airzeis deceived

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near err

Cite this Entry

“Err.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

: to make a mistake
erred in my calculations
: to do wrong : sin

Legal Definition

: to make an error
the court erred in denying the motion

More from Merriam-Webster on err

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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