What Does Out of Sorts Mean?

Out of Sorts Meaning

Definition: Feeling slightly sick or unwell; disorganized or unkempt.

If a person is out of sorts, he or she is not feeling well, physically or mentally. Perhaps your friend came to a work with messy hair and an un-tucked shirt. You might ask him why he is out of sorts.

If a room is out or sorts, it is messy and disorganized. It might need to be cleaned; it might need to be organized; or it might need a full remodel.

Origin of Out of Sorts

This idiom appeared around the first part of the 1600s. It may come from printing.

In printing, out of sorts means that the printing machine is out of stock of some of the letters needed for the typesetting.

Examples of Out of Sorts

meaning of out of sorts In the dialogue below, two men use the idiom while discussing how they are doing.

Robert: Hey Marty. How’s it going?

Marty: Couldn’t be better! How about you? How are you?

Robert: Oh, I guess I’m okay. I just feel a little out of sorts today.

Marty: Really? Are you sick?

Robert: No, physically I feel fine. I just woke up feeling sort of depressed and grouchy. Maybe I just need to get some more sleep.

Marty: You’re probably right. I also noticed you haven’t been eating as healthily as you did in the past. Maybe you need to change your diet as well.

Robert: That’s a possibility, certainly.

Marty: Well let me know if I can do anything to help.

Robert: Thanks. I think I’ll just take a quick nap.

definition of out of sorts The second dialogue shows two students who took their dogs to the dog park.

Josh: Hey! Your dog just ran into my dog! Try to get your dog under control!

Jeff: Geeze, I’m sorry, Josh! But you’ve got to calm down. They’re just playing. Your dog is fine. In fact, she’s having a great time.

Josh: Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry for yelling at you. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I’m just out of sorts today.

Jeff: No worries. It happens to everyone.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a hockey team. The person giving the quote doesn’t think there is anything wrong with the team.

  • “The thing we’re doing properly is responding to adversity,” Getzlaf said. “We’re not getting out of sorts. There’s going to be ups and downs through every playoff game, every series and it’s about controlling our emotions and using it to our advantage.” –USA Today

This excerpt is about a people so upset about political developments that they felt unwell.

Soha said she woke up Wednesday  completely out of sorts.

“I was enraged,” she said. “I wanted to just sit home and isolate myself. Instead, my mom calls me and tells me she is going to go give out free hugs.” –LA Times


The phrase out of sorts describes feeling poorly, either physically (as in feeling nauseated) or mentally (as in feeling grumpy). It can also describe a room that is messy and untidy.