The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Sort’

posted in: Language 0

sort |sôrt|
1 a category of things or people having some common feature; a type


Today’s Word: Sort

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “He sorted the urgent requests from the not-so urgent requests.” “I have to sort out my schedule once again…” “What sort of candy is that?”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: Since the definition of this word has to do with different categories, I suspect that the origin is related to type or uniqueness of items.

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French sorte, from an alteration of Latin sors, sort- ‘lot, condition.’

When you think about it, the alteration of  ‘sort’ from the Latin meaning ‘lot’ or ‘condition’ makes sense. Sorting items almost implicitly means that you put items into different ‘lots’ or categories as you define them. ‘Condition’ makes me think of different types of conditions such as those found in mathematics, for example, a conditional statement: “If X, then Y.”

Now, if you have a pile of different items (and are sorting through said items), you inevitably make your own defining rules and regulations as part of the sorting process. “If the paper is blue, then I will put it with the other blue papers,” or “I will throw it away,” or “I will give the paper to my coworker.” Truly, there are so many different paths that one can take when sorting…

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.