Word: erroneous

Pronunciation: i-ROH-nee-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: wrong, incorrect

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Billy Flynn: “Amos accused me of having an affair… so I told him that the charge was erroneous.”

D.A. Harrison: Objection, Your Honor! Mr. Flynn is twisting this evidence to draw conclusions that are specious and…

Flynn: Erroneous?

Harrison: Exactly!

Chicago (2002)

I’ll be honest: I almost never use this word in my own writing. The reason is that I consider it a little too “advanced” for most of the stories I like to create, and if I were to ever include it in a narrative, it would probably be within a dialogue involving characters who are politicians or lawyers (as in the above example, taken from the 2002 musical film Chicago). Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying “wrong”, and a character who might use such a word in place of its simpler counterpart would logically be of a more well-educated and studious type.

So why did I choose to include “erroneous” in my Word of the Week list? I just think it’s a good word to know, and even if you wouldn’t use it yourself, it never hurts to have a few extra vocabulary words under your belt. Need a little more convincing than that? No problem; here’s some brief etymology for you, then.

The word “erroneous” is derived from the Latin verb errare, meaning “to stray” or “err”. It should be fairly obvious, therefore, why this word fits so well into legal contexts, as it works to describe a deviation from the requirements of the law without identifying it as strictly “illegal”. Sounds like a handy tip for writers of legal thrillers, right?

So there’s another word to consider for your writing. I hardly use it, but obviously that doesn’t mean you couldn’t put it to much better use than I ever could. Have fun!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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