Out of Sorts – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

What does it mean when someone says they’re “out of sorts”? Is it even a real phrase? Sure, it is! But it’s good to understand idioms and expressions like this so you’re sure you’re using it in the right context. So, I’ve got all the quick details on the phrase “out of sorts,” including some sentence examples showing you how to use it properly. Read on!

Out of Sorts Meaning Explained

Out of Sorts Idiom Origin Meaning

The phrase “out of sorts” is an idiom we use in English to describe the whole vibe of feeling unwell or even just ill-tempered. You can use it to refer to physical and emotional discomfort, but all in all, it basically means you’re feeling “off,” aka not yourself.

When used as an adjective before a noun, the term is hyphenated, as in out-of-sorts.

Origin of the Phrase Out of Sorts

It actually goes back to the age of typesetting in the 17th century. Typographers and printers used the word “sorts” to describe the set of letters that they used to print things. They would usually have them in alphabetical order, obviously for ease. But when a letter was out of place, they’d say it was “out of sorts.”

One of the first documented uses of the word “sorts” in this way was in 1683, in the Doctrine of Handy-works: “The letters that lye in every box of the case are separately called sorts in printers and founders language; thus a is a sort, b is a sort, c is a sort, etc.”

Eventually, we morphed the phrase to be idiomatic and applied it to just about anything that was off, out of place, or not like the usual.

Similar Phrases for Out of Sorts

You might hear other phrases like “out of source” and “out of salts,” but those are just misconceptions of the correct phrase and shouldn’t be used, especially in formal contexts.

What Is Another Word for Out of Sorts?

  • Unwell
  • Off
  • Discomposed
  • Irritable
  • Ill-tempered
  • Indisposed
  • Unsettled
  • Unusual
  • Not myself/yourself
  • Under the weather

Out of Sorts Examples in a Sentence

Out of Sorts Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • Jane was feeling out of sorts after a long day at work as a teacher and just wanted to relax at home.
  • He’s been out of sorts ever since he received the bad news about his job.
  • The whole vibe of the room was out of sorts.
  • I’m not a fan of the rustic aesthetic she’s going for; it just feels out of sorts with the rest of the house.
  • After a series of sleepless nights of being up with the baby, I was out of sorts and found it hard to concentrate on anything else around the house.
  • When my daughter’s feeling out of sorts, it’s best to give her some space until she feels better. And, no, a Snickers bar won’t work.
  • The flu virus left my husband feeling out of sorts for a few weeks.

Out-of-sorts front-man Johnstone, who has struggled to cement a place in the U’s starting line-up since his arrival last summer, has been attracting the attention of both St Johnstone and Dundee, north of the border. (The East Anglian Daily Times)

Do You Feel Out of Sorts?

Enrich your vocabulary with a deeper understanding of words and phrases like “out of sorts.” You can use it to say you’re unwell or feeling off. But you can also apply it to other things like vibes, aesthetics, etc. Have fun working it into your speech and writing!

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