Comprehending laws and contracts is impossible, unless we first learn the meaning of the words and phrases they contain.

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KJV References

Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1828
MISTA'KE, verb transitive To take wrong; to conceive or understand erroneously; to misunderstand or misapprehend.
'Tis to mistake them costs the time and pain.
1. To take one thing or person for another.
We mistake the eloquence of self-apology for the animation of conscious integrity.
A man may mistake the love of virtue for the practice of it.

MISTA'KE, verb intransitive To err in opinion or judgment.
Servants mistake and sometimes occasion misunderstanding among friends.

MISTA'KE, noun An error in opinion or judgment; misconception.
Infallibility is an absolute security of the understanding from all possibility of mistake
1. A slip; a fault; an error. There is a mistake in the account or in the date.
Bouvier’s Dictionary of Law, 1856
MISTAKE, contracts.
1. An error committed in relation to some matter of fact affecting the rights of one of the parties to a contract.
2. Mistakes in making a contract are distinguished ordinarily into, first, mistakes as to the motive; secondly, mistakes as to the person, with whom the contract is made; thirdly, as to the subject matter of the contract; and, lastly, mistakes of fact and of law. See Story, Eq. Jur. §110; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.; Ignorance; Motive.
3. In general, courts of equity will correct and rectify all mistakes in deeds and contracts founded on good consideration.
4. As to mistakes in the names of legatees, see 1 Rop. Leg. 131; Domat, l. 4, t. 2, s. 1, n. 22. As to mistakes made in practice, and as to the propriety or impropriety of taking advantage of them, see Chitt. Pr. Index, h. t. As to mistakes of law in relation to contracts, see 23 Am. Jur. 146 to 166.
The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
When a contract fails to be made, although the usual forms have been gone through with, the ground of failure is commonly said to be mistake, misrepresentation, or fraud. But I shall try to show that these are merely dramatic circumstances, and that the true ground is the absence of one or more of the primary elements, which have been shown, or are seen at once, to be necessary to the existence of a contract.
If there is a mistake as to a fact not mentioned in the contract, it goes only to the motives for making the contract. But a contract is not prevented from being made by the mere fact that one party would not have made it if he had known the truth.
The Century Dictionary, An Encyclopedic Lexicon Of The English Language, William Dwight Whitney, 1895
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Blacks’ Law Dictionary, 1st Edition, 1891
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Miscellaneous Maxims
Mistakes, neglect, or misconducts are not to be regarded as accidents.

Whoever pays by mistake what he does not owe, may recover it back; but he who pays, knowing he owes nothing; is presumed to give.

Consent removes or obviates a mistake.

He who mistakes is not considered as consenting.

Of the credit and duty of a judge, no question can arise; but it is otherwise respecting his knowledge, whether he be mistaken as to the law or fact.
State of the Union Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 7, 1943
We all know that there have been mistakes--mistakes due to the inevitable process of trial and error inherent in doing big things for the first time.

State of the Union Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1945

I do not wish to give the impression that all mistakes can be avoided and that many disappointments are not inevitable in the making of peace. But we must not this time lose the hope of establishing an international order which will be capable of maintaining peace and realizing through the years more perfect justice between Nations.
To do this we must be on our guard not to exploit and exaggerate the differences between us and our allies, particularly with reference to the peoples who have been liberated from Fascist tyranny. That is not the way to secure a better settlement of those differences or to secure international machinery which can rectify mistakes which may be made.
Lewis v. Citizens and Southern National Bank, 229 S.E.2d 765.
"Any misrepresentation intended to deceive and which does deceive is a fraud, and any innocent and mistaken misrepresentation of a material fact is a fraud in law."
Wex Legal Dictionary
In general, any error or misconception.
In contract law, a situation where the parties did not mean the same thing when they agreed to a term or provision. Also, when at least one contracting party held a belief that was factually or legally false. As a result, the contract may be subject to modification or rescission.
In criminal law, a defense that claims either a misconception of the law or some fact. The defense of mistaking the law almost never succeeds. Mistakes of fact can work as a defense more often, especially if they are reasonable.
Mutual Material Mistake
In contract law, a defense used by one party to argue that a contract is invalid. In order to use the defense of mutual material mistake to argue that formation of the contract was improper, a party must argue that: (1) there was a mistake; (2) that the mistake must be material, meaning, that it must concern substantive characteristics of the subject of the contract; and (3) the mistake was mutual, meaning both parties had the same mistaken belief.
Mistake of Fact
Any mistaken belief other than a mistake of law. Examples include erroneous beliefs about the meaning of some term or about the identity of some person.
In criminal law, a mistake of fact can usually operate as a defense so long as it is reasonable. With crimes that require specific intent, even an unreasonable mistake of fact might work as a defense.
In contract law, a mistake of fact may be grounds for rescinding or modifying a contract. A party that interprets a term one way, but has reason to know that another interprets it differently, should bring the issue to light before the contract is closed. Failure to do this often pushes courts to construe the meaning of the term against the party which had knowledge of the possible mistake.
Mistake of Law
Mistake about the legal effect of a factual situation. Pointing to a mistake of law almost never works as a criminal defense; one exception is when a criminal defendant relies on a misstatement of the law in a statute, judicial opinion, or official statement from an executive officer.
U.C.C. § 1-103.
Construction of Uniform Commercial Code to Promote its Purposes and Policies: Applicability of Supplemental Principles of Law.

(a) The Uniform Commercial Code must be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes and policies, which are: (1) to simplify, clarify, and modernize the law governing commercial transactions; (2) to permit the continued expansion of commercial practices through custom, usage, and agreement of the parties; and (3) to make uniform the law among the various jurisdictions.
(b) Unless displaced by the particular provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, the principles of law and equity, including the law merchant and the law relative to capacity to contract, principal and agent, estoppel, fraud, misrepresentation, duress, coercion, mistake, bankruptcy, and other validating or invalidating cause supplement its provisions.
U.C.C. § 3-202.

(a) Negotiation is effective even if obtained (i) from an infant, a corporation exceeding its powers, or a person without capacity, (ii) by fraud, duress, or mistake, or (iii) in breach of duty or as part of an illegal transaction.
(b) To the extent permitted by other law, negotiation may be rescinded or may be subject to other remedies, but those remedies may not be asserted against a subsequent holder in due course or a person paying the instrument in good faith and without knowledge of facts that are a basis for rescission or other remedy.

Samuel Adams said:
If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.
It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions.
Robert E. Lee said:
[W]e made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.
Edmund Burke said:
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
Cullen Hightower said:
The mistakes made by Congress wouldn't be so bad if the next Congress didn't keep trying to correct them.
Robert Pollack said:
The freedom to make and admit mistakes is at the core of the scientific process. If we are asked to forswear error, or worse, to say that error means fraud, then we cannot function as scientists.
George Bernard Shaw said:
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
Milton Friedman said:
Central bankers always try to avoid their last big mistake. So every time there's the threat of a contraction in the economy, they'll over stimulate the economy, by printing too much money. The result will be a rising roller coaster of inflation, with each high and low being higher than the preceding one.
One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
Justice Hugo L. Black said:
The interest of the people lies in being able to join organizations, advocate causes, and make political “mistakes” without being subjected to governmental penalties.
Ignazio Silone said:
Liberty is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying “No” to any authority -- literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social and even political.
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