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Animal Collective Nouns

August 10, 2009

A collective noun is a word that describes or defines a group of persons, places, or things — ya know — nouns. I have always had a love of language, words, and etymology and I think collective nouns describing groups of animals among the most interesting and sometimes bizarre. Below I have begun a list of collective nouns. I would appreciate reader contributions to my collection of collective nouns in the comment section.

Many of these are common and well known, but I find some of them are odd and uncommon to me.  Seriously, are these for real?  Other than the obvious or common ones, I am wondering who came up with these collectives?  Maybe someone smarter than me can enlighten me…and of course, contribute more craziness.  However, I ask that readers not include non-factual contributions.  Facts are often more interesting and bizarre than the most creative fiction.

Herd of deer
Herd of horses
Pride of lions
Shrewdness of apes (Are apes generally ‘shrewd’? Help me out here)
Pace of asses (huh?)
Sloth of bears
Chain of bobolinks (maybe they fly in a single file line?)
Wake of buzzards
Pod of dolphins
Charm of hummingbirds
Smack of jellyfish (snack of jelly?)
Leap of leopards
Flock of lice
Unkindness of ravens
Stubbornness of rhinos
Wing of plovers
Prickle of porcupines (obvious)
Warren of rabbits
Flamboyance of flamingos (again, obvious, as these birds have such an appearance)
Exultation of skylarks
Gaze of raccoons

Additions from Jonolan:

Conspiracy of cats, murder of crows, gaggle of geese, and bale of turtles!

Additions from Tom:

A congregation of alligators
-A cauldron of bats
-An intrusion of cockroaches
-A court of kangaroos

That’s all for now.  Many of these I already knew due to my father and other old timers in my family having a pow wow about such things (they were country folk) while I sat and listened.  However, I find it difficult to believe that many of the collectives have ever been in common use.  How do they ‘make the cut’ of official English if they are never commonly used?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue Black permalink
    August 10, 2009 8:36 pm

    This was a good article. i always enjoy your writings. I don’t think you mentioned a school of fish. That is ass I can think of right not. if any others occur to me, I will add them.
    Sue

    • phoenixoftexas permalink
      December 29, 2009 7:48 pm

      Thank you…this was just a silly article for fun. I love words and phrases and looking up their origins.

  2. January 2, 2010 8:12 pm

    You can also add:

    Conspiracy of cats
    Murder of crows
    Gaggle of geese
    Bale of turtles

  3. January 11, 2010 10:09 pm

    Oh man, I think I hit the jackpot! Oh Wikipedia, I found an entire list of animal collectives. Here’s the link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animal_names

    Among my favorites are:

    -A congregation of alligators
    -A cauldron of bats
    -An intrusion of cockroaches
    -A court of kangaroos

    I read once before that many of the collective animal terms come from hunting. I could imagine being able to say something quick like, “I see a herd,” as opposed to, “I see a group of deer,” is the reason this came about, because you wouldn’t be so noisy.

    I don’t see many people hunting cockroaches though, so maybe other animals have a collective noun as some sort of jargon for those who study them?

    • January 11, 2010 10:23 pm

      Cool! I rarely look at Wikipedia….somehow I just don’t trust it….too many reasons to go into at this time. Maybe I should examine exactly why I don’t trust the Wikipedia sources

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