Meaning of ERROR in English


er ‧ ror S3 W2 AC /ˈerə $ ˈerər/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ error ; adjective : ↑ erroneous ]

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: errour , from Latin error , from errare ; ⇨ ↑ err ]

1 . [uncountable and countable] a mistake

error in

There must be an error in our calculations.


Error is rather formal and is mainly used when talking about computers or in some fixed expressions such as human error . In everyday English, people usually use mistake :

There must be a mistake somewhere.

2 . [countable] a mistake when you are working on a computer, which means that the computer program cannot do what you want it to do:

an error message

3 . error of judgement a mistake in the way that you examine a situation and decide what to do:

The decision to expand the company was an error of judgement.

4 . be in error to have made a mistake, especially when making an official decision:

The doctor has admitted that he was in error.

5 . do something in error if you do something in error, you do it by mistake:

The wrong man was arrested in error.

6 . see the error of your ways literary to realize that you have been behaving badly and decide to stop

⇨ trial and error at ↑ trial 1 (4)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ verbs

▪ make an error

We made too many errors, and that cost us the game.

▪ commit an error formal (=make an error, especially a serious one )

He knew he had committed a grave error of judgement.

▪ have/contain an error

If the data contains errors, the results will be wrong.

▪ find/spot/notice an error

His accountant spotted several errors in his tax return.

▪ realize your error

By the time she realized her error, it was too late.

▪ correct an error ( also rectify an error formal )

We will rectify the error as soon as possible.

▪ avoid errors

He resolved to learn from his mistakes and avoid similar errors in the future.

▪ compound an error (=make it worse)

He refused to listen to our advice, which compounded the error.

▪ an error arises/occurs formal (=happens)

If an error occurs, you will have two more chances to re-enter your password.


▪ a common error

a common error which students often make when writing essays

▪ a serious/bad error

The police made a serious error, which resulted in a young man’s death.

▪ a small/minor error

The letter contained some minor spelling errors.

▪ a glaring error (=very bad and very noticeable)

There is a glaring error on page 10, where his date of death is given as 2053, not 1003.

▪ a huge/monumental error (=very serious)

It was a monumental error to attack from the north.

▪ a grave error (=extremely serious, with serious results)

He has committed a grave error.

▪ a fatal error (=extremely serious, so that you are certain to fail)

Telling your staff they are not important is a fatal error.

▪ an unfortunate error

An unfortunate error resulted in confidential information being released to the press.

▪ a grammatical/spelling/typing error

You lose marks if your paper contains spelling errors.

▪ a clerical/administrative error

The applications forms were sent to the wrong addresses due to a clerical error.

▪ a factual error (=which includes a fact that is wrong)

The article contains many factual errors.

▪ a tactical error (=one that may cause a plan to fail)

Both parties have made tactical errors in the run-up to the election.

▪ a random error (=one that is not like others or part of a pattern)

This may seem like a random error, but in fact it is repeated once in every 5,000 samples.

▪ human error (=errors made by people)

Automatic checks reduce the danger of human error.

▪ computer error

An on-board computer error meant that the plane’s systems shut down for a few vital seconds.

▪ pilot/driver error

Investigators believe the crash was caused by pilot error.

▪ sb’s past errors formal

If we fail to learn from our past errors, we are doomed to repeat them.

■ phrases

▪ a margin of error (=the degree to which a calculation might be wrong)

We have to allow for a small margin of error in the calculations.

• • •


▪ mistake something incorrect that you accidentally do, say, or write:

a spelling mistake


I made a mistake – it should say £230, not £320.

▪ error formal a mistake:

an error in the report


grammatical errors


He had made a serious error on his tax form.

▪ misprint a small mistake in something that is printed:

There was a misprint in the article, and instead of ‘pleasant’ it said ‘pheasant’.

▪ typo informal a mistake in something that has been typed or printed:

I spotted a couple of typos in the letter.

▪ inaccuracy formal a piece of information that is not completely correct:

The report contained several inaccuracies.

▪ mix-up a careless mistake in which one name, time, address etc has been confused with another, so that the details of something are wrong:

There was a mix-up over the train times and I missed my train.

▪ slip-up a careless mistake when you are doing something:

The other team took advantage of the goalie’s slip-up.

▪ oversight a mistake in which you forget something or do not notice something:

Through some oversight, the brochures were not ready by the right date.

▪ a slip of the tongue a mistake in which you accidentally say a similar sounding word:

When I said Thursday, I meant Tuesday. It was a slip of the tongue.

▪ faux pas /ˌfəʊ ˈpɑː, ˈfəʊ pɑː $ ˌfoʊ ˈpɑː/ formal an embarrassing mistake in a social situation, when you do or say something that you shouldn’t:

Harris, trying to be funny, addressed the waiter as ‘boy’. A deathly silence followed this faux pas.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.