I saw a post about collective nouns last week and was surprised at my ignorance. I knew a three. Three. So, it was time to learn about collective nouns. Most of these animal collective nouns first appeared in the 14th and 15th centuries and were based on hunting. Yes, hunting. How many can you answer correctly?

  • a murder of ____________________________________
  • a tuxedo of _____________________________________
  • a bask of _______________________________________
  • a destruction of _________________________________
  • a tower of _______________________________________
  • a parliament of __________________________________
  • a cackle of ______________________________________
  • a smack of ______________________________________
  • an ambush of ___________________________________
  • a wisdom of _____________________________________
  • a sounder of ______________________________________
  • a leap of __________________________________________
  • a bevy of __________________________________________
  • an exaltation of ___________________________________
  • a murmuration of _________________________________
  • a troop of _________________________________________
  • a barrel of _________________________________________
  • a tower of _________________________________________
  • a parliament of ____________________________________

How many did you get right?

  •  a murder of crows
  • a tuxedo of penguins
  • a bask of crocodiles
  • a destruction of cats
  • a tower of giraffes
  • a parliament of owls
  • a cackle of hyenas
  • a smack of jellyfish
  • an ambush of tigers
  • a wisdom of wombats
  • a sounder of swine
  • a leap of leopards
  • a bevy of quail
  • an exaltation of larks
  • a murmuration of starlings
  • a troop of baboons
  • a barrel of monkeys
  • a tower of giraffes
  • a parliament of owls

Did you know collective nouns aren’t only about animals?

Here are seven examples 

  • a feast of brewers
  • a goring of butchers
  • a doctrine of doctors
  • a congregation of people
  • an eloquence of lawyers
  • a drunkenship of cobblers
  • a skulk of thieves

Some collective nouns are easy to understand, such as a leap of leopards. I get it leopard’s leaping or a tower of giraffes, and if you’ve ever owned a cat, you can relate to the destruction of cats. But why a murder of crows?

“Etymologists suggest that the association of crows and ravens with death might have led to the name, but the writer of the manuscript where a murder of crows first appeared gives no hint.” — Collective Nouns — What do you call a group of cats? Dogs? Marmosets? Lawyers?

But wait, there’s more! 

What about a herd, flock, colony, swarm, or school? Are they collective nouns? If they include a living thing, then yes. A herd of cattle, a flock of sheep, or a swarm of bill collectors, I mean bees.

So, I hope this was fun. It was for me. If, like me, you only knew a few, it’s an enjoyable rabbit hole to jump down. With enough research, we can rise above the ignorance of people who collectively don’t know a collective noun from a melody of harpists.

Photo by JJ Shev on Unsplash