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[sawr-ting] /ˈsɔr tɪŋ/
noun, Geology.
the process by which sedimentary particles become separated according to some particular characteristic, as size or shape.
Origin of sorting
sort + -ing1


[sawrt] /sɔrt/
a particular kind, species, variety, class, or group, distinguished by a common character or nature:
to develop a new sort of painting; nice people, of course, but not really our sort.
character, quality, or nature:
young people of a nice sort.
an example of something that is undistinguished or barely adequate:
He is a sort of poet.
manner, fashion, or way:
We spoke in this sort for several minutes.
  1. any of the individual characters making up a font of type.
  2. characters of a particular font that are rarely used.
an instance of sorting.
verb (used with object)
to arrange according to sort, kind, or class; separate into sorts; classify:
to sort socks; to sort eggs by grade.
to separate or take from other sorts or from others (often followed by out):
to sort the good from the bad; to sort out the children's socks.
to assign to a particular class, group, or place (often followed by with, together, etc.):
to sort people together indiscriminately.
Scot. to provide with food and shelter.
Computers. to place (records) in order, as numerical or alphabetical, based on the contents of one or more keys contained in each record.
Compare key1 (def 19).
verb (used without object)
Archaic. to suit; agree; fit.
British Dialect. to associate, mingle, or be friendly.
Verb phrases
sort out,
  1. evolve; develop; turn out:
    We'll just have to wait and see how things sort out.
  2. to put in order; clarify:
    After I sort things out here, I'll be able to concentrate on your problem.
of sorts,
  1. of a mediocre or poor kind:
    a tennis player of sorts.
  2. of one sort or another; of an indefinite kind.
Also, of a sort.
out of sorts,
  1. in low spirits; depressed.
  2. in poor health; indisposed; ill.
  3. in a bad temper; irritable:
    to be out of sorts because of the weather.
  4. Printing. short of certain characters of a font of type.
sort of, Informal. in a way; somewhat; rather:
Their conversation was sort of tiresome.
1200-50; (noun) Middle English < Middle French sorte < Medieval Latin sort- (stem of sors) kind, allotted status or portion, lot, Latin: orig., voter's lot; (v.) Middle English sorten to allot, arrange, assort (< Middle French sortir) < Latin sortīrī to draw lots, derivative of sors; later senses influenced by the noun and by assort
Related forms
sortable, adjective
sortably, adverb
sorter, noun
missort, verb
subsort, noun
subsort, verb
subsorter, noun
undersort, verb (used with object)
unsort, verb (used with object)
unsortable, adjective
Can be confused
kind, sort, type (see usage note at kind; see usage note at type)
1. class, family, order, rank, character, nature.
Usage note
See kind2. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sorting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Granger went on sorting out his papers, burning them or putting them aside.

    Murder Point Coningsby Dawson
  • When she came in, Jim was sitting erect and stern-faced, sorting papers.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • The first operation, that is, the first thing done with the corkwood, is the sorting.

  • Babs stood with her back to Judy, sorting a cabinet full of curiosities.

    A Young Mutineer Mrs. L. T. Meade
  • Returning home later in the afternoon, she found Mrs. Weems sitting on the living room floor, sorting a drawer of old photographs.

    Clue of the Silken Ladder Mildred A. Wirt
British Dictionary definitions for sorting


a class, group, kind, etc, as distinguished by some common quality or characteristic
(informal) type of character, nature, etc: he's a good sort
a more or less definable or adequate example: it's a sort of review
(often pl) (printing) any of the individual characters making up a fount of type
(archaic) manner; way: in this sort we struggled home
after a sort, to some extent
of sorts, of a sort
  1. of an inferior kind
  2. of an indefinite kind
out of sorts, not in normal good health, temper, etc
(informal) sort of
  1. (adverb) in some way or other; as it were; rather
  2. (sentence substitute) used to express reservation or qualified assent: I’m only joking. Sort of
(transitive) to arrange according to class, type, etc
(transitive) to put (something) into working order
(transitive) to arrange (computer information) by machine in an order convenient to the computer user
(informal) (transitive) foll by with. to supply, esp with drugs
(intransitive; foll by with, together, etc) (archaic or dialect) to associate, as on friendly terms
(intransitive) (archaic) to agree; accord
Derived Forms
sortable, adjective
sortably, adverb
sorter, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Medieval Latin sors kind, from Latin: fate
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for sorting



late 14c., from Old French sorte "class, kind," from Latin sortem (nominative sors) "lot; fate, destiny; share, portion; rank, category; sex, class, oracular response, prophecy," from PIE root *ser- (3) "to line up" (cf. Latin serere "to arrange, attach, join;" see series). The sense evolution in Vulgar Latin is from "what is allotted to one by fate," to "fortune, condition," to "rank, class, order." Out of sorts "not in usual good condition" is attested from 1620s, with literal sense of "out of stock."


mid-14c., "to arrange according to type or quality," from Old French sortir "allot, sort, assort," from Latin sortiri "draw lots, divide, choose," from sors (see sort (n.)). In some senses, the verb is a shortened form of assort.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sorting in Science
  1. The process by which sediment particles that have a certain characteristic, such as a given shape or grain size, are separated from other associated particles by an active agent of transportation, such as wind, a stream, or a glacier.

  2. A measure of the degree to which this process has occurred within a body of sediment. Wind-blown sediments are usually well-sorted because only a small range of grain sizes can be lifted by a particular wind velocity. Glacially derived sediments are usually poorly sorted because of the great range of particle sizes that are picked up by a moving glacier.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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sorting in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with sorting
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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