Sorted vs. Sordid

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Sorted and sordid are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and mean different things, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the words to, too and two, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. We will examine the definitions of the two homophonic words sorted and sordid, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Sorted is the past tense of the verb to sort, which means to distribute things into categories, to classify things into logical groups. Sort may also mean to resolve a difficulty or problem. The word sort is derived from the Old French word sortir, which means to sort something or to allot something. Related words are sorts, sorting.

Sordid is an adjective that describes something contemptible, something that is dirty, morally repugnant, or dishonorable. The word sordid is derived from the Latin word sordidus, which means foul, filthy, or dirty. Related words are sordidness, sordidly.


More than just a list that species are added to and deleted from, however, the checklist is also the authority on how North America’s bird species are sorted into genera and families based on their evolutionary relationships.  (Science Daily)

As of press time, there’s still a lot of confusion, and there’s still a lot to be sorted out.  (The Pittsburgh Business Times)

The souls behind Coos Bay smash hits “Pulp Shakespeare,” “Dash Riprock & the Tentacles of Doom” and “Murder Party” bring you this most comedic tragic mystery satire — the sordid tale of the lost rug that “pinioned well the chamber round”.  (Coos Bay World)

Legendary midnight movie director John Waters, who knows a bit about bad taste, looks at Manhattan’s Michelin-star bistros and sees only a sordid past. (The New York Daily News)

Enjoyed reading about these homophones? Check out some others we covered: