We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human! But do you know which Latin word, which has become a major root word in English, usually references making mistakes? The original Latin meaning probably doesn’t mean what you think! Ever heard of the root word err?

This week on the Bespeaking blog we were inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Word Root of the Day.  Therefore, we present to you the Latin word err and some words in English which derive (come) from it. If you are interested in this kind of thing, check out our blog from last year on more Latin roots used in English and some more here.

Knowing roots words is an excellent tool in learning English because if you already know what the root means, you can make a good guess at the meaning of the word. Pretty cool, huh?

Root Word Err

Err in Latin means “to wander” or “to stray”, and in English, root word err is used for many words having to do with making mistakes. It’s as if you’re “wandering away” or “straying” from what is right.

You may have heard the phrase “to err is human,” or “to err on the side of caution.” Err alone is still a word in English, too! If you say “to err is human,” you’re saying that it’s okay to make mistakes or stray from what is right, as it’s part of what makes us people. Everyone makes a mistake from time to time. We can’t help it!

And if you “err on the side of caution,” you know you may have to make a mistake or a hard choice. In this case, you’re more willing to make the “least bad” mistake that is a little safer or more cautious rather than take a risk with other options.

If err is used as a root word in English for words having to do with making mistakes, what are some of the most common? Check out the list below! How many of these with the root word err do you know already?


An error is a mistake. Whether a typo in an essay or inaccurate data during a presentation, an error can really ruin your day if you let it get to you personally. Don’t worry: correct it when you notice it, but then don’t let it bother you any more. You’ll feel way better about it!


If someone is unerring, it means they never make a mistake. (How nice would that be?) The unerring truth is the actual truth of a situation. It’s nice for things to be correct, but if someone is forever unerring, that may start to feel a little intimidating after a while. No one likes a perfect friend…ha!


If you’re errant in something, it means that you are outside of the norm or you have “wandered” or “strayed” from normal behavior. “Errant behavior” is behavior that is very strange and not normal. While errant behavior can be fun sometimes, it can be a good idea to “err on the side of caution” and work within the accepted boundaries (at least in the office).


While errant behavior can be enjoyable now and then, you don’t want to have aberrant behavior. Aberrant has a similar meaning to errant, but it’s taken to the extreme. If something is aberrant, it’s so far outside the norm of society, that it’s really unacceptable.


Have you ever seen anyone acting erratically? If someone is acting very strangely and wildly, especially if that’s not how they normally act, their behavior is said to be erratic.

We sometimes talk about computer data (erratic numbers) or strange animal reactions as erratic.


If a statement is erroneous, that means that it is not correct. Either a fact in the statement is not correct or it’s completely in the wrong. If you make an erroneous statement, but realize it, it’s ok to backtrack and fix your mistake! In fact, I’m sure that whomever you’re talking to would greatly appreciate it.

Don’t err in your root words anymore and try using the root word err properly! Stay tuned for more root words here on the Bespeaking blog.

Do you know any other words that come from the root word err? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and finds the pressure of being unerring a bit exhausting! Okay…just kidding!  

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