The Wild World of Collective Nouns

 In NCI News

A pack of wolves, a school of fish and a herd of cattle are all collective nouns for groups of animals that get used enough for them to be familiar. Being the rich and (at times) unnecessarily complicated language the English is, many other animals have collective nouns that help set them apart from the rest.

A small portion of an army of frogs

Some make sense, like how giraffes get together in a tower. Both are quite tall, there is logic there, just as there in for a group of porcupines to be called a prickle.  Much less obvious are the frogs who amass in an army or the lemurs that collect in a conspiracy.

Words for Birds

Long-time fans of The Simpsons likely know that a group of crows is called a murder. What the show failed to address is that a very small group of crows is called an attempted homicide.  That last one isn’t true, but I wish it was.

The crow’s cousins, the ravens, collect themselves in an unkindness. Turkeys trot about in either a rafter or a gang while owls wisely assemble in a parliament.  Several eagles form a convocation while parrots are a pandemonium.

Rounding up the Rest

You can find both clams and oysters in beds, watch elephants go in parades and gaze at grasshoppers who, in sufficient numbers, form a cloud. Bats are not to be found in a flock like some birds. Rather, they go about in cauldrons, as if their destiny lay with certainty at the feet of some Shakespearian witch.

This title makes much more sense knowing that rabbits assemble in a “down”

Names for rabbits breed with the proficiency of the creature. They can be in warrens, colonies, downs, nests, husks or even herds (though the last applies only to those in captivity).

Activity and location specific

Some animals get different collective nouns depending on where they are seen. While in flight, both ducks and geese are said to be in flocks.  Once ducks start to swim, they are referred to as a raft.  Geese on the ground are in a gaggle.

Hawks spiraling about in the air are said to be in a boil, but a few in regular flight are a kettle. Sometimes they can even said to be in a cast.

Best of the Best

Sharks deserve a special mention as enough of them form a shiver. Monkeys also deserve a nod as they can be said to be in a barrel.  But the true champion for best and most deserved collective noun goes to the otter, who are found in romps.

Their whole life seems to be spent playing, so it seems the perfect choice. If there is any doubt, here’s an otter having what seems to be the best time ever with a simple rock.

Recent Posts