sort (n.)

late 14c., sorte, "group of people, animals, etc.; kind or variety of person or animal," 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- (2) "to line up."

The sense evolution in Vulgar Latin is from "what is allotted to one by fate," to "fortune, condition," to "rank, class, order." Later (mid-15c.) also "group, class, or category of items; kind or variety of thing; pattern, design." The classical sense of "fate or lot of a particular person" was in Middle English but is now obsolete. The computing sense of "act of arranging (data) in sequence" is by 1958, from the verb. Related to assort, consort, sorcery, but not resort.

Colloquial sort of as a qualifier expressing hesitation or "to some extent" is attested by 1790; sometimes contracted to sorta, sorter. Out of sorts "not in usual good condition" is attested from 1620s, perhaps with a literal sense of "out of stock, out of equipment." In the original citation it is paired with out of tune. The type-setting sort is attested only from 1660s.

sort (v.)

mid-14c., sorten, "to arrange according to type or quality," c. 1400, "to classify by category," from Old French sortir "allot, sort, assort," from Latin sortiri "draw lots, divide, choose," from sors "lot, what is allotted; fate, destiny; share, portion" (see sort (n.)). In some senses, the verb is from the noun, or it is a shortened form of assort. Often with out (adv.). By 1948 as "resolve (a problem), clear up (a confusion)." Related: Sorted; sorter; sorting.

updated on March 22, 2023