AskDefine | Define error

Dictionary Definition



1 a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention; "he made a bad mistake"; "she was quick to point out my errors"; "I could understand his English in spite of his grammatical faults" [syn: mistake, fault]
2 inadvertent incorrectness [syn: erroneousness]
3 a misconception resulting from incorrect information [syn: erroneous belief]
4 (baseball) a failure of a defensive player to make an out when normal play would have sufficed [syn: misplay]
5 departure from what is ethically acceptable [syn: wrongdoing]
6 (computer science) the occurrence of an incorrect result produced by a computer [syn: computer error]
7 part of a statement that is not correct; "the book was full of errors" [syn: mistake]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /ˈɛrə(ɹ)/, /"Er@(r)/
  • Homophones: era (depending on pronunciation)
  • Rhymes: -ɛrə(r)


From error ("wandering about")


  1. A mistake.
  2. The difference between a measured or calculated value and a true one.
  3. baseball countable A play which is scored as having been made incorrectly.
  4. In the context of "appellate|_|law|uncountable": One or more mistakes in a trial that could be grounds for review of the judgement.
  • Czech: chyba
  • Danish: fejl , fejltagelse , forseelse
  • Finnish: virhe
  • German: Fehler
  • Hungarian: hiba
  • Japanese: (, ayamari), (, machigai)
  • Polish: błąd
  • Portuguese: erro
  • Russian: oшибкa
difference between a measured or calculated value and a true one
  • Czech: chyba
  • Danish: afvigelse
  • Finnish: virhe
  • German: Fehler
  • Japanese: (, gosa)
  • Polish: błąd pomiaru
  • Portuguese: erro
  • Russian: погрешность
baseball: play which is scored as having been made incorrectly
  • Japanese: (erā), (, shissaku)
one or more mistakes in a trial that could be grounds for review of the judgement
  • Danish: fejl
  • German: Irrtum


  1. To err.
    • 1993 December, Arie Kaufman (editor), Rendering, Visualization, and Rasterization Hardware, Springer-Verlag New York LLC
      Pixels which are mathematically outside of a triangle, but which are included for anti-aliasing purposes can be generated with colour and depth information outside of the valid range. The ADE should identify these cases and clamp the output to the minimum or maximum value depending on the direction it has errored in.
    • 2000 December, Randy W. Kamphaus, Clinical Assessment of Child And Adolescent Intelligence, Allyn & Bacon
      By doing so examiners are erroring in the direction of drawing hypotheses based on greater evidence of reliability and validity.
    • 2001 November, Daniel D. Dancer, Shards and Circles: Artistic Adventures in Spirit and Ecology, Trafford Publishing
      Error is not just permitted by diversity; it is what permits diversity.... The beetle had “errored” beautifully
    • 2002 May, Sylvain Beauregard, Passion Celine Dion the Book: The Ultimate Guide for the Fan!, Trafford Publishing
      Many other celebrities errored in the political comments area...



(nonstandard) To make a mistake; to result in an error
See: err

Derived terms

See also



  • IPA: [e.ˈroɾ]


  1. An error

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Error refers to a difference between actual behavior or measurement and the norms or expectations for the behavior or measurement. The concrete meaning of the Latin word error means "ramble" or "misconception", although the metaphorical meaning "mistake, misapprehension" is more common.

Human behavior

One reference differentiates between "error" and "mistake" as follows:An ‘error' is a deviation from accuracy or correctness. A ‘mistake' is an error caused by a fault: the fault being misjudgment, carelessness, or forgetfulness. Now, say that I run a stop sign because I was in a hurry, and wasn't concentrating, and the police stop me, that is a mistake. If, however, I try to park in an area with conflicting signs, and I get a ticket because I was incorrect on my interpretation of what the signs meant, that would be an error. The first time it would be an error. The second time it would be a mistake since I should have known better.
In human behavior the norms or expectations for behavior or its consequences can be derived from the intention of the actor or from the expectations of other individuals or of a social grouping or from social norms. (See deviance.) Gaffes and faux pas can be labels for certain instances of this kind of error. More serious departures from social norms carry labels such as misbehavior and labels from the legal system, such as misdemeanor and crime. Departures from norms connected to religion can have other labels, such as sin.
Errors can occur even when individuals have the required knowledge to perform a task correctly. Examples include forgetting to collect your change after buying chocolate from a vending machine, forgetting the original document after making photocopies, and forgetting to turn the gas off after cooking a meal. These slip errors can occur when an individual is distracted by something else.

Oral and written language

An example of how this word may be used colloquially whilst observing an event or action with an undesired outcome:
Carl says "Oh no, I was drinking my drink and spilt it down myself" Hannah replies (whilst pointing) "Error!"


A gaffe is a verbal mistake made by a company or individual, usually in a social environment. The mistake comes from saying something that is true, but inappropriate, or, what might be as bad, an erroneous attempt to reveal a truth. Finally, gaffes can be malapropisms, grammatical errors or other verbal and gestural weaknesses or revelations through body language. Actually revealing factual or social truth through words or body language, however, can commonly result in embarrassment or, when the gaffe has negative connotations, friction between people involved.
A grammatical or literary error is more embarrassing in the company of intellectuals, professors or serious students, just as errors of science can be embarrassing among scientists or doctors. The protagonist attorney in the film Liar Liar plays on the nature of truth revelation, however, and its ambiguous or unexpected consequences.
As used by some journalists, particularly sportswriters, "gaffe" becomes an imagined synonym for any kind of mistake, e.g., a dropped ball by a player in a baseball game. Philosophers and psychologists interested in the nature of the gaffe include Freud and Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze, in his Logic of Sense, places the gaffe in a developmental process that can culminate in stuttering.


See medical error for a description of error in medicine.


In statistics, an error is not a "mistake" but is a difference between a computed, estimated, or measured value and the true, specified, or theoretically correct value.

Experimental science

An error is a bound on the precision and accuracy of the result of a measurement. These can be classified into two types: random error and systematic error. Random error is caused by inherently unpredictable fluctuations in the readings of a measurement apparatus or in the experimenter's interpretation of the instrumental reading, whereas systematic error is predictable, and typically constant or proportional to the true value. If the cause of the systematic error can be identified, then it can usually be eliminated. Such measurement errors can also be referred to as uncertainties.


In engineering, an error is a difference between the desired and actual performance or behavior of a system or object. (In computational mechanics, when solving a system such as Ax=b there is a distinction between the "error" — the inaccuracy in x — and residual—the inaccuracy in Ax.)
Engineers often seek to design systems in such a way as to mitigate or preferably avoid the effects of error, whether unintentional or not.
One type of error is human error which includes cognitive bias. Human factors engineering is often applied to designs in an attempt to minimize this type of error by making systems more forgiving or error-tolerant.
Errors in a system can also be latent design errors that may go unnoticed for years, until the right set of circumstances arises that cause them to become active. See also Observational error.


See aviation safety for a description of how flying has been made safer by making the aviation system more error-tolerant.


In telecommunications, an error is a deviation from a correct value caused by a malfunction in a system or a functional unit. An example would be the occurrence of a wrong bit caused by an equipment malfunction. (Sources: Federal Standard 1037C and MIL-STD-188). See also error-correcting code and error-detecting code. A soft error is a deviation from a correct value which does not necessarily imply a malfunction.

Computer programming

In software engineering, the term error refers to an incorrect action or calculation performed by software. In general, an error results from a combination of a defect (code that does not correctly implement the requirements or intended behavior) and a fault (situation or event that exercises a program's susceptibility to error). If, as a result of the error, the system performs an undesired action or fails to perform a desired action, then this is referred to as a failure.
In software, defects are more commonly referred to as software bugs. It is important to note that a defect can exist in software but never give rise to an error (if no fault event ever occurs to exercise the defect). Similarly an error can occur without causing a failure if the program detects the error and recovers from it before it can give rise to a system failure.
An error may be detected by the software which can be handled by raising an exception. For instance, it is an error to attempt to write more files onto a disk that is full. Careful programmers write code that can handle errors that may occur, and prevent them from turning into failures; strategies for doing so include using error codes and using exception handling. Continuing past an unhandled error can cause error avalanche, a condition in which errors pile up and one or more failures occur. Also, in hierarchically structured systems, a complete failure of one component may constitute only a fault within a higher level system, which can be detected and corrected at a higher level.
In more general parlance, the term error is also used to describe incorrect actions on the part of a programmer. A syntax error is an ungrammatical or nonsensical statement in a program; one that cannot be parsed by the language implementation. A logic error is a mistake in the algorithm used, which causes erroneous results or undesired operation. Anti-patterns, or undesirable program design elements, may make it harder to detect or correct errors.


In biology, an error is said to occur when perfect fidelity is lost in the copying of information. For example, in an asexually reproducing species, an error (or mutation) has occurred for each DNA nucleotide that differs between the child and the parent. Errors in this sense are not judged as "good" or "bad", although an error may make an organism either more or less adapted to its environment.


In baseball, an error is judged by the official scorer when a runner advances a base because of a fielding mistake, and perfect play would have prevented the advancement, and the mistake was physical. Mental misjudgments are not errors. Failing to get more than one out on a given play is not an error. Application of this rule is necessarily subjective. See error (baseball).


In philately, an error refers to a postage stamp or piece of postal stationery that exhibits a printing or production mistake that differentiates it from a normal specimen or from the intended result. Examples are stamps printed in the wrong color or missing one or more colors, printed with a vignette inverted in relation to its frame, produced without any perforations on one or more sides when the normal stamps are perforated, or printed on the wrong type of paper. Legitimate errors must always be produced and sold unintentionally. Such errors may or may not be scarce or rare. A design error may refer to a mistake in the design of the stamp, such as a mislabeled subject, even if there are no printing or production mistakes.

Error Correction

Norman (1986, 1988) argued that because error is inevitable, ‘designers’ should minimize the causes of error, make it possible to undo erroneous actions and make it easier to discover and correct errors. Edmondson’s research focuses on pinpointing specific conditions on group levels which can influence the degree of errors caught and corrected. Although her study was in a specific sector (medicine) some of her conditions can be generalized: a) Unit Leader behaviours. b) Unit performance outcomes c) Unit shared beliefs.
Unit leader behaviours are crucial in creating a culture in which openness of discussing errors, through their open and stimulating behaviour, are used as an example for the others. The unit performance outcomes consist of factors such as quality of interpersonal relations, unit performance and detected error rates. The leader behaviour and the performance outcomes result in shared beliefs. The shared beliefs of error report that first of all, everybody should accept that making mistakes is normal and that it will not be used against one (Helmreich, 1988). Further, the more errors are reported and discussed, the bigger the incentive should be to report and solve other errors.
Jones (1999) adds that technocratic movements have a positive influence on error correction due improved communication. Technological improvements stimulate collaborate thinking and striving for optimalization of systems. Through this, error correction is maximalized. Tsuvijek (1988) implies how technology on one hand can improve error correction, but on the other hand cause more errors due to decreased human intervention.
In mathematics, computer science, telecommunication, and information theory, error correction has a very precise meaning discussed in the article about error detection and correction.
Error in reasoning
Error Diagnosis and Prevention
error in German: Fehler
error in Spanish: Error
error in Hebrew: שגיאה
error in Japanese: エラー
error in Polish: Błąd
error in Portuguese: Erro
error in Russian: Ошибка
error in Albanian: Gabimi
error in Sicilian: Erruri
error in Simple English: Error
error in Slovak: Chyba
error in Slovenian: Napaka
error in Swedish: Fel
error in Turkish: Hata (neo spiritüalizmde)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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