Collective nouns

According to the Double-Tongued Word Wrester, the collective noun for unicyclists is a wobble. This makes sense as unicyclists do tend to wobble quite a lot, at least at first – I certainly wobble a bit when riding my unicycle. The collective noun for jugglers is a neverthriving – any ideas where this comes from? So is a group of juggling uncyclists a neverthriving wobble?!

There are many other collective nouns in English, some of which are rarely used or have been coined for fun. Most such words are for groups of animals or people. Relatively few are for inanimate objects. Some collective nouns come from the habitat of a particular creature, e.g. a cete of badgers, a nest of mice; others are based on a physical characteristics, behavioural traits or sounds made by animals, e.g. a prickle of hedgehogs, a sneak of weasals, a murmuration of starlings.

Here are a few more examples:

an aarmory or aardvarks
an absence of waiters
an army of frogs
a babel of words/languages
a business of ferrets
a clutter of cats
a chattering of choughs
a crash of rhinoceroses
a descent of woodpeckers
an embarrassment of parents
a fluther of jellyfish
a murder of crows
a parliament of owls
a shuffle of bureaucrats
a warren of wombats


This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

6 Responses to Collective nouns

  1. TJ says:

    well sounds like some common expressions for me!
    But that reminds me of something … in Arabic and Irish Gaelic as well!

    In Irish Gaelic, the word for “woman is “bean” and the plural is “mná,” a completely different word!

    Exactly the same property is in Arabic, for the same word! Woman in Arabic is “امرأة” (Imra’ah) and the plural is “نساء” (Nisaa’) …also two completely different words. For people that don’t know how plural is formed in both languages, the usual way comes from changing the ending of the words (it needs some details to be mentioned but maybe not here and it’s a looooong story). This is another weird coincedence between 2 far distant languages!

  2. Mike says:

    This is similar to the (almost) universal pluralization system in Japanese. Most Japanese nouns are pluralized by way of counter words.
    For example, the counter word for ‘pencil’ is 鉛筆 (enpitsu), and the counter for long thin objects is 本 (hon). So ‘five pencils’ would be 鉛筆五本 (enpitsu go-hon).
    For other nouns, usually involving people, you can just use the suffix ‘達’ (-tachi), as in 子供達 (kodomo-tachi; ‘children’).

    The only Japanese noun I can think of that has a true plural form is ‘person’ (人; ‘hito’), which becomes 人々 (hitobito; ‘people’). There are probably at least a few more, but I can’t think of any right now.

  3. Declan says:

    Well for Irish, short words often have a few strange forms. You have one “teach” but two “tithe”. But the singular of “tithe” is really “tí” which means sort of homeplace. Most words are bascially regular though. Even “Fear” changes to “Fir” but that is making it caol.

  4. Jianying says:

    The thing about collective nouns, is that in English you are not expected to know them. Nobody in my experience actually would know a “shuffle of bureaucrats”. In chinese however collective nouns are very much required part of diction. To say things without them would be next to incomprehensible. Things such as “look, rabbits” would be next to intranslatable gramatically. one has to say something akin to “look, a colony of rabbit” to be grammatical.

  5. PJ says:

    We recently came up with a new collective now at my workplace (Computer/Call Center industry) in reference to the oh-so-common snarl of cables at the back of a computer. Our suggestion:
    “a disaster of cables”

  6. JoeyBurns says:

    Wow, there is some really nice info here.
    I’ll definitely come back soon to see everything.
    Way to go! 😉


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