Useful Collective Nouns

A murder of crows.

A parliament of owls.

A confederacy of racists.

A typpo of copy editors.

An ego of tenors.

A solipsism sopranos.

A caterwaul of contraltos.

A denouement of fat ladies.

An inarticulatency of writers.

A colorless green idea of linguists.

An argument of rabbis.

An insufficiency of chocolates.

An erroneous nap of surrealists.

A casus belli of puns.



  1. johnson catman says

    “An insufficiency of chocolates” applies only to dark chocolate. Fuck milk chocolate.

  2. Mano Singham says

    I only recently leaned that a collection of crows is called a ‘murder’. I meant to look into how that curious label came about but never got around to it.

  3. flex says

    @ Mano #5,

    In 1968, James Lipton wrote a book on venery, or medieval collective nouns. This book, An Exaltation of Larks, generated a new interest in collective nouns in English. Of the over 1100 collective nouns listed, many were made up by Lipton. It’s been a source of innocent enjoyment since. I recall my grandmother getting a copy of the book as a gift, and I enjoying reading (and re-reading it). I have a number of later books on venery on my shelf, but I do not have An Exaltation of Larks. These day’s it’s simply a pleasant memory of how a grandparent would keep a child occupied on a rainy day, and for some reason I always think of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ piece, A Lark Ascending.

    As for “A Murder of Crows”, I can’t find much in my reference books. Aside from a suggestion that it could refer to two different crow species, Corvus Corone which is known as the Carrion Crow, but also known as the Hoodie and I find reports that the Hoodie would attack sheep. Or maybe the reports actually refer to a separate species, the Corvus Cornix which I have reports from a more contemporary authority that they attack sheep. So, it seems one of the two species (or maybe both) is known to collectively attack and kill sheep, which may account for the collective noun of “murder” for them.

    Of course, in the middle ages, the rook was also known as a crow, so who really know what they were talking about.

    For what it’s worth, the original purpose of venery was to assign collective nouns to animals which would be hunted. And knowing those collective nouns was important for someone attempting to show that they knew the specialized knowledge of the nobility. So if you called a group of badgers something other than a cete, or referred to turkeys as a flock rather than a rafter, you would have revealed your ignorance. These days collective nouns are more fun than serious. Which is how we have an ostentation of peacocks. It’s not like we consider an Odium of Politicians a group of creatures we hunt for sport.

    Although I do like An Insufficiency of Chocolate. Although for me, it’s more an Insufficiency of Potato Chips. I just can’t get enough of them.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Somewhere there exists a story of a [collective] of Oxford scholars encountering a [collective] of sex workers, then contriving an array of suggestions. I recall two at the moment: a tray of tarts, and an essay of Trollopes.

  5. says

    From the “Inspector Morse” stories and TV:

    A body of pathologists (coroners).

    And my own addition, a pun based on the TV show and music:

    A pose of Trans people.

  6. chigau (違う) says

    a DIG of archaeologists
    we can dig it
    archaeologists do it in the dirt

  7. Andrew Dalke says

    “A parliament of owls.” is from C. S. Lewis’s 1953 book “The Silver Chair”. Paul F. Ford’s “Companion to Narnia” notes “This is a humorous allusion to Chaucer’s poem ‘Parliament of Fowls’.”

  8. Kimpatsu says

    A smack of jellyfish
    An unkindness of ravens

    “Parliament of rooks” comes about because they will stand around together in a field looking like they are engaged in scholarly debate.
    @flex (and 違う will also like this): Japanese still doesn’t distinguish between rook and crow, both being called “karasu” (烏丸).

  9. Derek Lactin jon says

    Graduate students:
    most commonly, an aspiration;
    periodically, a frenzy,
    and rarely, a convocation.

  10. cafebabe says

    Late to the party, but what the hell. My favourite: a clutch of constables.

  11. Anthony says

    A keeble of elves.

    When I was working as ASM on a production of Elf: The Musical, the backstage crew had a very intense discussion on what a group of elves were called. We landed on “keeble”

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