Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Error and Mistake

english wordsError vs Mistake

Synonyms are two or more different words that bear the same or similar meaning. However, there are appropriate ways to use the words, and this will often depend on the context.

‘Error’ and ‘Mistake’ are two of these words. Both of the words mean: “A wrong action attributable to bad judgment, or ignorance, or inattention”. Many use these words interchangeably, which can be right for certain situations, but some would deem a particular word as more appropriate than the other.

As what has been said earlier, the context will dictate the proper usage. ‘Error’ and ‘mistake’ fall into the same category. Many say that ‘error’ is more severe. It is due to miscalculation and wrong judgment, that ‘mistake’, on the other hand, is less in gravity, as people normally make mistakes. However, there are also many people who will argue with this dissection.

It is highly acceptable to use ‘error’ in formal or technical contexts. In scientific or highly technical terms, the word ‘error’ is more suitable. In the world of computing and programming, ‘error’ is the more fitting term to indicate a mistake, or fault, particularly in coding and processes. ‘System Error’ sounds better than ‘System Mistake’, doesn’t it?

‘Mistake’, on the other hand, is used more in casual English conversation. Though ‘error’ may still be used in exchange, it will often sound unnatural, or technicalese. It would be awkward to say something like: “It was all an error. I am sorry!”, to your girlfriend. The more natural sounding statement would be: “It was all a mistake. I am sorry!”

In terms of etymology, the words are more deeply differentiated. The word ‘error’ came from the latin word ‘errorem’ or ‘errare’, which means ‘to wander or stray’. The root of the word ‘mistake’, nails the meaning more correctly. It is from the old Norse word, ‘mistaka’, which means ‘mis’ (wrong) and ‘taka’ (take). As a whole, it means ‘wrongly taken’.


1. Some may consider ‘error’ to be much more severe than ‘mistake’.

2. The term ‘error’ is more suitable for more formal contexts, while ‘mistake’ is used more extensively in casual conversations.

3. Etymology suggests that ‘error’ was from a latin word which means ‘to wander or stray’, while ‘mistake’ is from an old Norse word, which means ‘wrongly taken’.

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  1. Hey good night!!

    I’m a student of the Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco and I’m working on my research project and I just wanna know if the author of this information allow me to use it as part of my research project…

    Also I’d like to know from where you support this information or let me know your reference (yours)


    José del Carmen García Vega

  2. I was taught that there is a distinct difference between the two terms, which are based in the quoted roots of both words, Error is used when describing a gap, difference or “wandering” from the desired result of the action. Mistake is used when the wrong decision was made, regardless of the result of the action.

    An example “The player showed no errors when he shot the basketball – it went directly into the basket. His mistake was that it was his opponent’s basket.”

  3. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed reading this. I would like to suggest, however, that you correct a few syntax mistakes (or errors, perhaps?) in the text. And by ‘syntax errors’ I don’t mean the kind one finds in a computer program; I rather mean good old-fashioned punctuation. Spot the mistakes here:

    1. It is due to miscalculation and wrong judgment, that ‘mistake’, on the other hand, is less in gravity, as people normally make mistakes.

    2. The root of the word ‘mistake’, nails the meaning more correctly.

    In the first, the comma should be a semicolon or a full stop to stop the run-on sentence in its tracks. In the other, the comma should be omitted to enable the subject to rejoin its beloved verb.

    That said, I wholly enjoyed the otherwise splendid punctuation.

  4. Article and all bloggers are WRONG!!!
    The difference between a mistake and an error is a mistake requires Conscience INTENT!

    “A wise man once said, ‘An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” – JFK

    • That is also my take. To honor the truth, though, Marshall Grant (comment of 6th June 2011) did say the same thing, just in other words.

      My words would be:

      ERROR: Mistake made due to lack of knowledge (i.e rules, code etc.)…and truly it’s also more formal (as stated in the article). This would embrace both your definition and Marshall Grant example of the player shooting the ball into the wrong basket. Also the use of “Error” in IT would make sense following this definition.

      MISTAKE: It’s choice or action accidentally made due to wrong judgement….and truly it’s also less formal (as stated in the article).

      So, the article is not really “wrong”; just incomplete. MG is not “wrong” either; it just used different words, maybe misleading.

  5. Oh Yes! I want to say it was very so good post and thanks for
    the post.

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