Difference between Error and Mistake

Key Difference: Error and mistake are two different words that are actually synonyms of each other. They mean the same thing, but are used in different context.

Error and mistake are two different words that are actually synonyms of each other. They also mean the same thing, something that is done incorrectly or is wrong. This could be due to bad judgment, inattention or may due to lack of focus. The main difference between the two is the context that they are used in.

Merriam Webster defines ‘error’ as:

  • an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior
  • an act involving an unintentional deviation from truth or accuracy
  • an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what
  • a mistake in the proceedings of a court of record in matters of law or of fact
  • the quality or state of erring
  • Christian Science : illusion about the nature of reality that is the cause of human suffering : the contradiction of truth
  • an instance of false belief
  • something produced by mistake <a typographical error>; especially : a postage stamp exhibiting a consistent flaw (as a wrong color) in its manufacture
  • 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
  • the amount of deviation from a standard or specification
  • a deficiency or imperfection in structure or function <an error of metabolism>

This term is also used in baseball and is defined by Dictionary.com as “a misplay that enables a base runner to reach base safely or advance a base, or a batter to have a turn at bat prolonged, as the dropping of a ball batted in the air, the fumbling of a batted or thrown ball, or the throwing of a wild ball, but not including a passed ball or wild pitch.” The term is also more commonly used in technical terms such as when computing or dealing with software and hardware, if the person inputs wrong data or wrong programming, it results in an error, where the program cannot work or the system won’t start.

Examples of error:

  • I made an error when measuring the dimensions.
  • The computer produced an error when the data was incorrect.
  • His speech contained several factual errors.
  • I made an error in my calculations.
  • The paper contains numerous spelling errors.
  • I saw a documentary of horrifying cases of hospital error
  • The shortstop was charged with an error.

Merriam Webster defines ‘mistake’ as:

  • to blunder in the choice of
  • to misunderstand the meaning or intention of : misinterpret
  • to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of
  • to identify wrongly: confuse with another

The term mistake is more commonly used when dealing with humans. Mistakes are not always terms as bad, as the saying goes, “humans make mistakes!”

Example of mistake:

  • I mistook him for his brother.
  • Don't mistake me, I mean exactly what I said.
  • The auctioneer mistook my nod for a bid, and I ended up buying a painting I don't even like.
  • I was so mistaken about him.
  • I made a mistake when I married him.

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