so·ri·tes (sə-rītēz, sô-) Logic
n. pl. sorites
1. An argument presenting a series of premises that can be analyzed as a chain of syllogisms, with each syllogism's major term forming the minor term of the next, until a final conclusion is attained. For example, a sorites might consist of the premises that some pets are snakes, that no snakes have fur, and that only furry things are cuddly, yielding the conclusion that not all pets are cuddly.
2. An argument exploiting the imprecision of everyday language to reach a paradoxical conclusion. The classic argument of this sort maintains that one grain of sand does not make a heap and that adding a single grain of sand to something that is not a heap does not make a heap, yielding the conclusion that no additional amount of sand can make a heap.
Of or relating to a sorites: a sorites paradox.
[Latin sōrītēs, from Greek sōreitēs, from sōros, heap; see teuə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.