1. A group of persons or things of the same general character; a kind. See Usage Note at kind2.
2. Character or nature: books of a subversive sort.
3. One that exemplifies the characteristics of or serves a similar function to another: "A large dinner-party ... made a sort of general introduction for her to the society of the neighbourhood" (George Eliot).
4. A person; an individual: The clerk is a decent sort.
5. Computers An operation that arranges data in a specified way: did an alphabetic sort on the columns of data.
6. Archaic A way of acting or behaving: "in this sort the simple household lived / From day to day" (William Wordsworth).
v. sort·ed, sort·ing, sorts
1. To place or arrange according to class, kind, or size; classify: sorted the books into boxes by genre. See Synonyms at arrange.
2. To separate from others: sort the wheat from the chaff.
1. To make a search or examination of a collection of things: sorted through the laundry looking for a matching sock.
2. To be or become arranged in a certain way.
1. To separate from others: sorted out the books to be donated to the library.
2. To clarify or resolve: She tried to sort out her problems.
3. To bring or restore to health or good condition: A good night's sleep will sort you out.
4. To reprimand or punish (someone) for a mistake or offense.
after a sort
In a haphazard or imperfect way: managed to paint the chair after a sort.
of sorts/a sort
1. Of a mediocre or inferior kind: a constitutional government of a sort.
2. Of one kind or another: knew many folktales of sorts.
out of sorts
1. Slightly ill.
2. Irritable; cross: The teacher is out of sorts this morning.
sort of Informal
Somewhat; rather: "Gambling and prostitution ... have been prohibited, but only sort of" (George F. Will).
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sors, sort-, lot; see ser-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.