Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.
1. To separate and arrange something according to certain properties. A noun can be used between "sort" and "out." We need to sort these clothes out and decide what we're going to keep. My job is to sort out the recyclables so that all the paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass goes to the right part of the facility.
2. To understand or resolve a problem or conflict. A noun can be used between "sort" and "out." They brought in the head of human resources to sort the issue out. I've spent nearly an hour on this math problem, but I still can't sort it out.
3. To correct, discipline, reprimand, or punish someone for their behavior. A noun can be used between "sort" and "out." The disciplinarian had to come in to sort out the unruly students. A: "The new accountant has been giving me nothing but grief since he began." B: "Don't worry, I'll go sort him out."
sort something out
1. Lit. to sort something; to arrange according to class or category. Let's sort these cards out. Would you please sort out your socks?
2. Fig. to study a problem and figure it out. I can't sort this out without some more time. Let's sort out this mess and settle it once and for all.
1. To separate some class, kind, or size from others: I sorted out the blue socks and washed them separately. We sorted the rotten fruit out from the rest and threw it away.
2. To arrange some collection according to class, kind, or size: I sorted out the pile of photos and put them in the appropriate albums. The jeweler sorted the diamonds out by weight and clarity.
3. To resolve some confusion or conflict: It took me an hour to sort out the problem with my reservation. The couple almost broke up, but they managed to sort things out.
4. Slang To punish someone or correct someone's behavior: If they keep messing around, I'll have to go sort them out.