Let’s Talk About… Collective Nouns (Unofficial Pt. 3)

As usual, during my research for Part 1 and Part 2 of my Collective Noun post, I found a few things that I couldn’t resist sharing. So, for Part 3, enjoy a few humorous cartoons, posters, and images about collective nouns!


Index of Supernatural Collective Nouns by David Malki (available as a poster!)

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A few avian terms of venery by Micheal Kline

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A cartoon by Pain Train

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A Pickles cartoon

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These adorable illustrations from Babbel

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And these illustrations from Giulia Barbera

12_snakes 11_whales 10_gorillas 09_owls 08_wolves 07_frogs 06_rhinos 05_elk 04_fish 03_crows 02_ferrets 01_lions

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Let’s Talk About… Terms of Venery (Collective Nouns Pt. 2)

Of course, I couldn’t have just one post about collective nouns. Even though it would’ve been ironic if I had…

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A little collective noun humor

If you didn’t catch my last post about collective nouns, here is a refresher: A “collective noun” is a word referring to a collection of similar things taken as a whole.

The interesting thing is that there is a separate term for groups of animals. A collective noun for a group of animals is also called a “term of venery”; venery being an archaic word for “hunting”.

The popularity of terms of venery developed from hunting traditions in the late Middle Ages. It became fashionable in the 1400s to coin hunting terms, spawning hundreds of names for groups of animals and even names for different types of animal droppings. It was expected of an educated gentleman to know these names (even if they had no practical use), and books were published to catalog them. One such publication, the Book of Saint Albans, was popular in the 15th and 16th century and became the go-to reference for these collective nouns, landing many of them in the English lexicon.

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An excerpt from the Books of St. Albans

There are many that most readers will already be familiar with, because they are commonly used today, such as:

  • An army of ants
  • A clutch of chickens
  • A flock of birds
  • A herd of cattle
  • A murder of crows
  • A pack of coyotes
  • A pod of dolphins
  • A pride of lions
  • A school of fish
  • A swarm of hornets

But, just like the humorous collective nouns I explored in my last post, some people got creative, leaving us with some hilarious terms of venery. Thank goodness we don’t have to remember all of these to be fashionable anymore, but they would be a fun compliment to any modern vocabulary.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • An aarmory of aardvarks
  • An ambush of tigers
  • A barrel of monkeys
  • A bellowing of bullfinches
  • A bevy, game, or whiting of swans
  • A bloat of hippopotamuses
  • A bouquet of pheasants
  • A business of ferrets
  • A cackle of hyenas
  • A charm of finches
  • A clutter, glaring, or pounce of cats
  • A congregation of alligators
  • A crash of rhinoceroses
  • A dazzle of zebras
  • A float of crocodiles
  • A gaze of raccoons
  • An intrusion of cockroaches
  • A kindle of kittens
  • A knot of toads
  • A labor of moles
  • A memory of elephants
  • A mustering of storks
  • An ostentation of peacocks
  • A pandemonium of parrots
  • A parcel of hogs
  • A parliament of owls
  • A party of jays
  • A scurry of squirrels
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A smack of jellyfish
  • A tower of giraffes
  • An unkindness of ravens
  • A wake of buzzards
  • A wisdom of wombats

Your homework: Gather some friends. Introduce a group of zebras into the conversation. Casually refer to them as a “dazzle”. Bask in the feeling of being a proper 15th century gentleman.

(Resources: Mental Floss, OjoHaven, Electric Lit)

Let’s Talk About… Collective Nouns

As a certified word nerd, linguistic humor is my favorite. And, for some unknown reason, I find clever collective nouns to be hilarious.

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If you don’t find this funny, we can’t be friends.

A “collective noun” is a word referring to a collection of similar things taken as a whole. For example, you frequently see collective nouns used for humans, like a group, a team, or even the word government describes a collection of people. A collective noun for a group of animals is also called a “term of venery”, which I will explore in a future post and discuss how their popularity spawned many of the terms we have now.

There are also sneaky collective nouns that you may not realize you use on a daily basis, like a flight of stairs, a pad of paper, and a load of laundry.

Here are some other common examples that you may use often:

  • A bank of monitors
  • A battery of tests
  • A belt of asteroids
  • A bouquet or bed of flowers
  • A bunch of grapes
  • A cast of actors
  • A chain of islands
  • A chorus of angels
  • A class of students
  • A constellation of stars
  • A deck of cards
  • A fleet of ships
  • A forest of trees
  • A heap of trash
  • A host of angels
  • A library of books
  • A pair of ships
  • A pantheon of gods
  • A range of mountains
  • A ring of keys
  • A rope of pearls
  • A round of drinks
  • A string of pearls
  • A wealth of information

An explosion of collective nouns occurred in the 15th century, as inventing them became a game and means of social commentary. As more popped up in our language, a few jokesters also starting introducing humorous or light-hearted names for groups of people, such as a sentence of judges or a flush of plumbers. I love the ingenuity of whoever come up with some of these!

Here are a few of my favorites*:

  • An abandonment of orphans
  • An addition of mathematicians
  • An archive of programmers
  • An audit of bookkeepers
  • A babble of linguists
  • A bevy of beauties
  • A billow of smokers
  • A colony of microbiologists
  • A fascination of on-lookers
  • A flock of tourists
  • A following of stalkers
  • A giggle of girls
  • A handful of palm readers
  • A mass of Catholics
  • A mess of little boys
  • A mixture of pharmacists
  • A murmur of nuns
  • An om of Buddhists
  • A ponder of philosophers
  • A reflection of narcissists
  • A shortage of dwarves
  • A shower of meteorologists
  • A snap of photographers
  • A sprig of vegetarians
  • A stack of librarians
  • A sulk of teenagers
  • An upyours of New Yorkers
  • A wave of surfers

And here are a few extra, fun collective nouns for objects*:

  • An accompaniment of condiments
  • An agenda of tasks
  • A babel of words
  • A blessing of unicorns
  • A blaze of dragons
  • A burden of yolks
  • A hug of teddy bears
  • A jam of tarts
  • A line of pencils
  • A luck of dice
  • A pack of suitcases
  • A ring of telephones
  • A stir of spoons
  • A tumult of tubas

And, my personal favorite, a charlotte of webpages.

This list only begins the conversation about collective nouns, because we haven’t even started talking about “terms of venery”. Stay turned for Part Two!

*Note: Not all of these are “confirmed” or listed in many reputable publication, but the great thing about words is that you get to have fun making them up!

(Resources: Mental Floss, OjoHaven, Electric Lit, Rod Chu)