A Collection of Collective Nouns

by Kate

One of the best parts of the English language (for this word-nerd at least!) are collective nouns. Originally, they were used for hunting and sport, and it was a mark of true nobility if you knew the right collective noun for the prey of the day.

Collective nouns are also very democratic. There is no governing body who decides on the correct term (though some have been in fashion for so long as to be accepted as final). Instead usage determines the noun, and what doesn’t catch on falls away.

Collective nouns are, of course, most famous for animals, some more fanciful than others:

  • a shrewdness of apes
  • a clowder of cats
  • a herd of buffalo
  • a murder of crows
  • a wisdom of wombats

They’re also often wonderfully visual and can add a touch of whimsy and colour to a sentence without the weight of adjectival phrases. How delightful is a charm of finches? How poetic is a flight of butterflies? How evocative is a crash of rhinoceroses?

Recently, I found myself wondering if there were collective nouns for groups of people as well. And, luckily for all of us, other people have wondered too, and I found some fantastic examples that I’d like to share with you. Remember, they’re all democratic so if you like them, use them loudly and often. If you don’t, ignore them and hope they go away!

Collective nouns for people: a non-comprehensive list

  • A faculty of academics
  • A flood of plumbers
  • A team of athletes
  • A wiggery of barristers
  • A crew of sailors
  • A flash of paparazzi
  • A shuffle of bureaucrats
  • An exaggeration of fishermen
  • A flock of tourists
  • A talent of gamblers
  • A prudence of vicars
  • A gaggle of gossips
  • A damning of jurors
  • A panel of experts
  • An imposition of in-laws

and, perhaps most usefully,

  • a worship of writers
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