Of Sorts: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
March 11, 2024

"Of sorts" is a phrase used to indicate that something is not a typical or perfect example of a particular type but can still be considered as belonging to that type in a broad or limited way. It often implies a variation or a less-than-ideal version of something. For example, someone might say, "He's a musician of sorts," meaning that while the person plays music, they might not fit the conventional image or standard of what one typically considers a musician.

In short:

  • It suggests a loose or non-traditional example of something.
  • It implies a variation or unconventional instance.

What Does "Of Sorts" Mean?

The phrase "of sorts" is used to qualify a statement by suggesting that while something belongs to a particular category, it does not fully or typically represent that category. It's a way of acknowledging that while something has characteristics of a certain type, it may not be the best or most typical example of that type. The phrase is often employed to temper expectations or to introduce a concept that deviates from the norm. For instance, saying "a solution of sorts" suggests that while a problem-solving method exists, it might not be entirely effective or ideal.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It implies a broad or loose categorization rather than a strict or precise one.
  • The phrase is often used to introduce a non-traditional or unconventional example of something.
  • It can indicate a makeshift, temporary, or imperfect version of something.
  • Used to add nuance, often downplaying or moderating a claim.
  • Similar expressions include "in a way," "to a degree," and "after a fashion."

Where Does "Of Sorts" Come From?

The phrase "of sorts" has been in use for several centuries, evolving from the word "sort," which means a type or kind. Its usage has been common in English to indicate a variety or kind of something, especially in a non-specific or loosely defined way.

10 Examples of "Of Sorts" in Sentences

To demonstrate how "of sorts" is used in different contexts, here are some examples:

  • The team had a celebration of sorts after the small victory.
  • His workshop is a museum of sorts, filled with all kinds of old tools.
  • She became a local celebrity of sorts due to her charity work.
  • They managed to find a solution of sorts, although it was not ideal.
  • The event was a success of sorts, even though not everything went as planned.
  • He's an artist of sorts, experimenting with various unusual materials.
  • The makeshift shelter was a home of sorts for the stranded hikers.
  • My ex treated me like a doormat of sorts, often disregarding my feelings and opinions.
  • She said it turns her off of sorts when she notices a lack of effort or sincerity in someone's actions or words.
  • The area was cordoned off of sorts, but a sense of ambiguity hung in the air. It wasn't a typical restriction with police tape or clear warnings.

Examples of "Of Sorts" in Pop Culture

The phrase "of sorts" appears in various forms of pop culture, often to describe unconventional or unique characters, situations, or things.

Here are some pop culture examples:

  • "An Arrangement of Sorts" by Rebecca Connolly is a historical romance novel detailing the unconventional relationship that blossoms from a marriage of convenience.
  • David McMillan, Frederic Morin, and Meredith Erickson co-authored "Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse: Another Cookbook of Sorts," a cookbook offering unique recipes alongside endearing survival tips for the culinary enthusiast.
  • "Out of Sorts" by Aurélie Valognes is a heartwarming story about family, change, and the search for happiness, drawing comparisons to "A Man Called Ove" by its readers.
  • In the film "V for Vendetta," a character proclaims, "You see, I'm a musician of sorts and on my way to give a very special performance," showcasing the protagonist's mysterious and dual nature.
  • "A Sea Chanty of Sorts" by Margot & the Nuclear So and So's is a song that touches on the themes of freedom and departure, inviting listeners to explore their own interpretations of liberation.
  • The Oh Hellos' song "A Kindling, Of Sorts" stands out for its instrumental arrangement, serving as a captivating introduction to their album without the use of lyrics.
  • R.E.M.'s "Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcar)" captures the essence of the band's early sound with its enigmatic lyrics and post-punk influence, making it a standout track in their discography.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Of Sorts"

Some alternative phrases with similar meanings:

  • In a way
  • To a degree
  • After a fashion
  • Kind of
  • Sort of
  • In a sense
  • More or less
  • Up to a point
  • In some respects
  • Quasi-

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Of Sorts":

  • What does "of sorts" imply?

"Of sorts" implies a broad or loose categorization, often suggesting an unconventional or less-than-ideal example.

  • Is "of sorts" a formal or informal phrase?

The phrase is versatile and can be used in both formal and informal contexts, although it tends to be more common in informal speech.

  • Can "of sorts" be used in professional writing?

Yes, "of sorts" can be used in professional writing to introduce a concept that deviates from the norm or to add nuance.

  • Does "of sorts" always imply something negative?

No, it doesn't always imply something negative; it can simply indicate something that is unconventional or not a perfect example.

  • How is "of sorts" different from "sort of"?

"Of sorts" is used to describe something that belongs to a broad category, while "sort of" is used to express uncertainty or approximation in statements.

  • Can it be used to describe people?

Yes, "of sorts" can describe people, often to suggest they have certain traits or roles but not in the typical sense.

  • Is the phrase commonly used?

Yes, "of sorts" is a commonly used phrase in both spoken and written English.

  • Can "of sorts" imply a temporary condition?

Yes, it can imply a temporary or makeshift condition, especially in phrases like "a solution of sorts."

  • Does the phrase have a positive or negative connotation?

The phrase is neutral, but its connotation depends on the context in which it is used.

  • Can "of sorts" be used in academic writing?

While it can be used in academic writing, it should be employed cautiously and appropriately, given the need for precision in academic contexts.

Final Thoughts About "Of Sorts"

The phrase "of sorts" is a useful linguistic tool for introducing elements that belong to a category but with qualifications or exceptions. It's handy for adding nuance to descriptions and for acknowledging unconventional or imperfect examples in various contexts.

To summarize:

  • It is often used to describe unconventional or atypical examples.
  • The phrase is neutral but can have different connotations depending on context.
  • It's applicable in a wide range of contexts, including formal and informal settings.
  • "Of sorts" is useful for expressing nuances and variations in categorization.

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