To err is human; to forgive, divine

  • To err is human; to forgive, divine
     is a proverb with ancient roots. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that may be a famous quote, an inspirational quote, an epigram, or the topic of a parable. These common sayings are language tools or figures of speech that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself because these common phrases and popular sayings are so well known. Certain phrases may be a metaphor or a quotation; but if it is a proverb, it is often-used and has a figurative meaning. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never; early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; an apple a day keeps the doctor away; don’t cry over spilt milk; actions speak louder than words; haste makes waste, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the proverb to err is human; to forgive, divine, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To err is human; to forgive, divine means that it is the nature of a human being to make mistakes, because humans are not perfect. However, forgiving someone for his mistakes is an imitation of the mercy of God. Of course, the idea is that it is good and moral to forgive people for their human failings. The expression to err is human; to forgive, divine was written by English poet Alexander Pope in his An Essay on Criticism, Part II, written in 1711. The expression to err is human is much older, however. It is based on a sentiment expressed by Plutarch, who lived in the first century. A.D. Plutarch said: “For to err in opinion, though it be not the part of wise men, is at least human.” Often, only the first part of the proverb, to err is human, is quoted as an excuse for making a mistake.



    Superintendent Iline Tracey, who is black, had recommended that Roblee be demoted rather than fired Monday as she quoted poet Alexander Pope, saying “to err is human, to forgive divine,” according to the report. (New York Post)

    As the saying goes “to err is human, to forgive divine.” (Harvard Business Review)

    To err is human, so don’t be embarrassed to show just how human you are. (Forbes)

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