Improve Your Vocabulary: Collective Nouns

A collective noun is simply a word that describes a group of something. It is a specialised kind of count noun (and a count noun is a noun that occurs in both singular and plural forms, for example one chair, two chairs). Read on to find out more about these entertaining nouns!


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We're probably most familiar with collective nouns as applied to groups of animals, but they can also apply to people and inanimate objects, and even to more abstract ideas. Also keep in mind that the collective noun bit is really just the noun in each example below, for example "troupe" from a troupe of actors, and "deck" in a deck of cards are the collective nouns. The rest of the phrase is used to illustrate what it's for.

Here is a list of some of the better known, and some of the more amusing, collective nouns. Many animals have a variety of collective nouns, for example there can be a colony, a swarm, or an army of ants. I haven't included every single option.

  • a faculty of academics
  • a troupe of actors
  • a fleet of aeroplanes
  • a cluster of antelopes
  • a shrewdness of apes
  • a quiver of arrows
  • a bundle of asparagus
  • a belt of asteroids
  • a team of athletes
  • a congress of baboons
  • a sleuth of bears
  • a lodge of beavers
  • a hive of bees
  • a grist of bees
  • a wad of bills
  • a flock of birds
  • a congregation of birds
  • a library of books
  • a herd of buffalo
  • a rabble of butterflies
  • a flock of camels
  • a deck of cards
  • a clowder of cats
  • a kine of cattle
  • a flock of chickens
  • a clutch of chicks
  • a bed of clams
  • an intrusion of cockroaches
  • a school of cod
  • a pack of coyotes
  • a bask of crocodiles
  • a pack of dogs
  • a pod of dolphins
  • a swarm of eels
  • a herd of elephants
  • a staff of employees
  • a panel of experts
  • a business of ferrets
  • a shoal of fish
  • a bed of flowers
  • a skulk of foxes
  • an army of frogs
  • a colony of fungi
  • a gaggle of geese
  • a horde of gerbils
  • a corps of giraffes
  • a cloud of gnats
  • a pantheon of gods
  • a glint of goldfish
  • a bunch of grapes
  • a group of guinea pigs
  • an array of hedgehogs
  • a gang of hoodlums
  • a clan of hyenas
  • a wealth of information
  • a cache of jewels
  • a bench of judges
  • a jury of jurors
  • a mob of kangaroos
  • a ring of keys
  • a kindle of kittens
  • a gang of labourers
  • a fall of lambs
  • a leap of leopards
  • a colony of lepers
  • a flock of lice
  • a pack of lies
  • a pride of lions
  • an audience of listeners
  • a plague of locusts
  • a range of mountains
  • an orchestra of musicians
  • a trio of musicians
  • a coterie of orchids
  • a pride of ostriches
  • a family of otters
  • a parliament of owls
  • a bed of oysters
  • a ream of paper
  • a pod of peas
  • a pack of perch
  • a farrow of piglets
  • a chine of polecats
  • a school of porpoises
  • a society of professionals
  • a nursery of raccoons
  • an unkindness of ravens
  • a clump of reeds
  • an embarrassment of riches
  • a parliament of rooks
  • a pack of Scouts
  • a flock of sheep
  • a posse of sheriffs
  • a pair of shoes
  • a choir of singers
  • a den of snakes
  • a squad of soldiers
  • a clutter of spiders
  • a dray of squirrels
  • a flight of stairs
  • a galaxy of stars
  • a class of students
  • a flight of swallows
  • a drove of swine
  • a flotilla of swordfish
  • a den of thieves
  • an ambush of tigers
  • a flock of tourists
  • a grove of trees
  • a board of trustees
  • a nest of vipers
  • a colony of voles
  • a committee of vultures
  • a swarm of wasps
  • a gaggle of women
  • a clew of worms
  • a herd of yaks
  • a cohort of zebras

There is no really "official" list of collective nouns, and people have a lot of fun making up silly ones. Authors like to invent them too. Here are some less formal collective nouns, many of which are very silly, I hope you enjoy them!

  • a conflagration of arsonists
  • a hop of bunnies
  • a flutter of cardiologists
  • a chortle of cartoonists
  • a club of cavemen
  • a disobedience of children
  • a load of cobblers
  • a gaggle of comedians
  • a hastiness of cooks
  • a rash of dermatologists
  • a wilderness of despair
  • an exaggeration of fishermen
  • a bunch of florists
  • a gruel of hatred
  • a ruin of hopes
  • a scoop of journalists
  • a stack of librarians
  • an illusion of magicians
  • an expectation of midwives
  • a horde of misers
  • a coil of mortals
  • a brace of orthodontists
  • a flash of paparazzi
  • a nucleus of physicists
  • a flush of plumbers
  • an equivocation of politicians
  • a presumption of protestors
  • a complex of psychologists
  • a set of pure mathematicians
  • a shiver of sharks
  • a lamentation of swans
  • a jam of tarts
  • a fund of techniques
  • a sulk of teenagers
  • an impertinence of telemarketers
  • a prudence of vicars
  • a nastiness of villains
  • an ambush of widows

Be careful — collective nouns are for groups of countable objects; if it's a group of non-countable items, then you use a mass noun. A mass noun can be defined as "more than one instance (or example) of a certain sort of entity". A few examples of mass nouns are: physics, mathematics, detergents, cutlery, water, furniture. You wouldn't say one furniture, two furnitures, for example, so as they refer to a general group of things (all types of furniture) and don't have a singular form, they are mass nouns.


There are a few tricks when using collective nouns in sentences. Do you treat them as singular or plural? Well — it depends (sorry about that!). When a group is considered as a single unit, the collective noun is used with a singular verb and singular pronouns. For example: The faculty has reached its decision (not have reached)

But when the focus is on the individual members of the group, British English uses a plural verb and plural pronouns. For example: The jury have been arguing all morning. This is the same as saying The people in the jury have been arguing all morning.

In American English the singular is used all the time (in general), no distinction being made for the context the collective noun is used in.


*Troy and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of Ultimate Vocabulary because we are happy to endorse this award-winning software.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 10:41
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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