<algorithm>

1. <computer programming> To arrange a collection of items in some specified order. The items - records in a file or data structures in memory - consist of one or more fields or members. One of these fields is designated as the "sort key" which means the records will be ordered according to the value of that field. Sometimes a sequence of key fields is specified such that if all earlier keys are equal then the later keys will be compared. Within each field some ordering is imposed, e.g. ascending or descending numerical, lexical ordering, or date.

Sorting is the subject of a great deal of study since it is a common operation which can consume a lot of computer time. There are many well-known sorting algorithms with different time and space behaviour and programming complexity.

Examples are quicksort, insertion sort, bubble sort, heap sort, and tree sort. These employ many different data structures to store sorted data, such as arrays, linked lists, and binary trees.

2. <tool> The Unix utility program for sorting lines of files.

Unix manual page: sort(1).

(01 Mar 1997)

1. A kind or species; any number or collection of individual persons or things characterised by the same or like qualities; a class or order; as, a sort of men; a sort of horses; a sort of trees; a sort of poems.

2. Manner; form of being or acting. "Which for my part I covet to perform, In sort as through the world I did proclaim." (Spenser) "Flowers, in such sort worn, can neither be smelt nor seen well by those that wear them." (Hooker) "I'll deceive you in another sort." (Shak) "To Adam in what sort Shall I appear?" (Milton) "I shall not be wholly without praise, if in some sort I have copied his style." (Dryden)

3. Condition above the vulgar; rank.

4. A chance group; a company of persons who happen to be together; a troop; also, an assemblage of animals. "A sort of shepherds." "A sort of steers." "A sort of doves." "A sort of rogues." "A boy, a child, and we a sort of us, Vowed against his voyage." (Chapman)

5. A pair; a set; a suit.

6. Letters, figures, points, marks, spaces, or quadrats, belonging to a case, separately considered. Out of sorts, to use or require a greater number of some particular letters, figures, or marks than the regular proportion, as, for example, in making an index.

Synonyms: Kind, species, rank, condition.

Sort, Kind. Kind originally denoted things of the same family, or bound together by some natural affinity; and hence, a class. Sort signifies that which constitutes a particular lot of parcel, not implying necessarily the idea of affinity, but of mere assemblage. The two words are now used to a great extent interchangeably, though sort (perhaps from its original meaning of lot) sometimes carries with it a slight tone of disparagement or contempt, as when we say, that sort of people, that sort of language. Surprisingly, "type" is not included in this synonym-list! in MW10, the list under "type" includes kind and sort. "class" is mentioned in the def, but not on the list of synonyms. "As when the total kind Of birds, in orderly array on wing, Came summoned over Eden to receive Their names of there." (Milton) "None of noble sort Would so offend a virgin." (Shak)

Origin: F. Sorie (cf. It. Sorta, sorte), from L. Sors, sorti, a lot, part, probably akin to serere to connect. See Series, and cf. Assort, Consort, Resort, Sorcery, Sort lot.

1. To separate, and place in distinct classes or divisions, as things having different qualities; as, to sort cloths according to their colours; to sort wool or thread according to its fineness. "Rays which differ in refrangibility may be parted and sorted from one another." (Sir I. Newton)

2. To reduce to order from a confused state.

3. To conjoin; to put together in distribution; to class. "Shellfish have been, by some of the ancients, compared and sorted with insects." (Bacon) "She sorts things present with things past." (Sir J. Davies)

4. To choose from a number; to select; to cull. "That he may sort out a worthy spouse." (Chapman) "I'll sort some other time to visit you." (Shak)

5. To conform; to adapt; to accommodate. "I pray thee, sort thy heart to patience." (Shak)

Origin: Sorted; Sorting.

(01 Mar 1998)

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