Aberrant seems a subset of the word errant.

  1. Thus, what's the effect of the Latin prefix 'ab-'? What are the similarities and differences?

  2. What's this phenomenon called, in which a prefix or suffix affects nothing?

  3. What are some more accurate words that characterise two words, X and Y, for which all of X's defnitions are contained in Y's, than 'subset'?

  1. They're more or less synonyms. Aberrant is more used to describe deviation from moral/societal norms. Errant has a stronger association with "error", so can be used for people prone to make errors. ("Aberrant", "errant", and "error" all come from the same Latin verb "erro", meaning "to wander".)

  2. Redundancy?

  3. You may be looking for hypernym and its counterpart hyponym.

  • +!. Thank you! Yes, your answer to 3 matches exactly what I seek! I'll allow a few more days for possible further answers. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Sep 30 '14 at 8:25
  • "a stronger association with 'error'," what's an 'error' but deviation from the norm? – Kris Sep 30 '14 at 9:54
  • @Kris You wouldn't normally use aberrant when describing someone who makes spelling errors. – Barmar Oct 1 '14 at 17:22

You have already noted the formation of the words and the significance of the prefix ab-, so where's the issue now?

err: to stray, OFr: errer

ab-: away; from

Errancy refers to a system's nature of deviation. Aberration is the instance of deviation. Errant behavior should be treated by behavioral correction, an aberration needs to be remedied by restoring to normal.

Also, the ab- prefix is generally not used with a positive connotation, while error by itself has no such baggage: "To err on the safe side."


  • An error is an error, on the safe side or not. If asked what is the maximum distance one can safely stick ones head out of a train window as it passes through a tunnel, the correct answer might be, say, 30 centimetres. "50 centimetres" and "not at all" would both be errors, but the latter is erring on the safe side. (In practice, I imagine the correct answer depends on which tunnel, and which train. Though I prefer to err on the safe side.) – tobyink Sep 30 '14 at 10:44
  • @tobyink Of course, 'an error can be nothing else but an error,' so? 'Error' is not necessarily a bad thing, unlike 'aberration.' – Kris Sep 30 '14 at 14:15

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