Terms of venery and collective nouns

Terms of venery and collective nouns can be a bit of fun and linguistic trivia.

Collective nouns are the names given for groups or a collection of people or things. We’re used to using these words in a general sense, like a herd of sheep or the crew of a ship.

A delightful quirk of the English language, terms of venery (hunting), or nouns of the collection as they are also known, are essentially linguistic leftovers from the Late Middle Ages. Many names for groups of animals were first recorded in specially published books for nobility, on the various aspects of noble life, specifically hunting. Through the course of courtly fashion and the language naturally extending, collective nouns were perpetuated long after their usefulness and introduction. 

See terms of venery in literature

Crows, for one, are most commonly referred to as a murder, ravens have come to be known in a group as an unkindness or a conspiracy. While many of these terms have a basis in animal behavior, it couldn’t be more untrue for a group of ravens. Ravens are smart, cunning, and fun-loving birds are known to both display affection and mischievousness.

Based on old folk tales, superstitions, and mythology, there are likely several different explanations for the origin of the term murder of crows. Scavengers in nature, crows, have a rich association with death and are seen by some as pests, leading to their less than favorable connection with death and fear. Loud, rambunctious, and very intelligent, crows have had a long history of being associated with the macabre. 

These books were designed as manuals to instruct young aristocrats on social graces and activities, without embarrassing them. One of the most influential in surviving, The Book of Saint Albans, is credited with the first appearance of terms of venery (a medieval term for hunting). Among such useful hunting terms as a gaggle of geese and an exaltation of larks, geese found on land would be referred to as a gaggle, whereas a group of geese seen flying is often referred to as a skein or wedge depending on the formation. You can also find the wisdom of wombats and a crash of rhinos.

Terms of VeneryAnimalUsage
ambushtigerAn ambush of tigers
armyant, caterpillar, frog, herringA army of ants/caterpillars/frogs/herring
arrayhedgehogAn array of hedgehogs
aurorapolar bearAn aurora of polar bears
baleturtleA bale of turtles
bandcoyote, jayA band of coyotes/jays
barrelmonkeyA barrel of monkeys
barrenmuleA barren of mules
baskcrocodileA bask of crocodiles
batterybarracudaA battery of barracudas
bazaarguillemotA bazaar of guillemots
bedclam, cockle, mussel, oysterA bed of clams/cockles/mussels/oysters
bellowingbullfinchA bellowing of bullfinches
bevyquail, swanA bevy of quails/swans
bikebee, hornetA bike of (wild) bees/hornets
bindsalmonA bind of salmon
bloathippopotamusA bloat of hippopotamuses or hippopotami
bouquetpheasantA bouquet of pheasants
bracegeldingA brace of geldings
broodchicken, henA brood of chickens/hens
bunchwildfowlA bunch of wildfowls
buryconyA bury of conies
businessferretA business of ferrets
cacklehyenaA cackle of hyenas
cadgeperegrineA cadge of peregrines
caravancamelA caravan of camels
castfalcon, hawkA cast of falcons/hawks
cetebadgerA cete of badgers
chainbobolinkA chain of bobolinks
charmfinch, goldfinch, hummingbirdA charm of finches/goldfinches/hummingbirds
chinepolecatA chine of polecats
clanhyenaA clan of hyenas
clewwormA clew of worms
cloudbat, gnat, grasshopper, seafowlA cloud of bats/gnats/grasshoppers/seafowls
clusterspiderA cluster of spiders
cluttercatA clutter of cats
coalitioncheetahA coalition of cheetahs
colonyant, auk, avocet, badger, bat, beaver, chinchilla, gull, ibis, penguin, rabbit*, rat, seagull, vole, vultureA colony of ants/auks/avocets/badgers/bats/beavers/chinchillas/gulls/ibises/penguins/ rabbits/rats/seagulls/termites/voles/vultures
companyangelfish, archerfish, widgeonA company of angelfish/archerfish/widgeons
congregationcrocodile, ploverA congregation of crocodiles/plovers
congresssalamanderA congress of salamanders
conspiracylemur, ravenA conspiracy of lemurs/ravens
convocationeagleA convocation of eagles
covertcootA covert of coots
coveygrouse, partridge, ptarmigan, woodcockA covey of grouse/partridges/ptarmigans/woodcock
cowardicecurA cowardice of curs
crashrhinocerosA crash of rhinoceroses
crowdredwingA crowd of redwings
cryhoundA cry of hounds
culturebacteriaA culture of bacteria
dazzlezebraA dazzle of zebras
deceitlapwingA deceit of lapwings
densnakeA den of snakes
descentwoodpeckerA descent of woodpeckers
destructioncat, wildcatA destruction of (wild) cats
doledove, turtle doveA dole of doves/turtle doves
downhareA down of hares
driftpigA drift of pigs
drovebullock, cattle, donkey, ox, pig, swineA drove of bullocks/cattle/donkeys/oxen/pigs/swine
embarrassmentpandaAn embarrassment of pandas
exaltationlarkAn exaltation of larks
familybeaver,sardineA family of beavers/sardines
farrowpigletA farrow of piglets
feverstingrayA fever of stingrays
flamboyancefamingoA flamboyance of flamingos
flightbird, cormorant, dragon, goshawkA flight of birds (in the air)/cormorants/dragons/goshawks
flingdunlin, sandpiperA fling of dunlins/sandpipers
floattunaA float of tuna
flockbird, bustard, louse, ostrich, pigeon, sheep, swiftA flock of birds/bustards/lice/ostriches/pigeons/sheep/swifts
flotillaswordfishA flotilla of swordfish
flufflewild rabbit A group of bunnies (also called a colony)
flushduckA flush of ducks
gagglegooseA gaggle of geese
gamwhaleA gam of whales
gangbuffalo, elk, weaselA gang of buffaloes/elk/weasels
generationviperA generation of vipers
glaringcatA glaring of cats
glideflying fishA glide of flying fish
glintgoldfishA glint of goldfish
gloryunicornA glory of unicorns
grindblackfish, bottlenose whaleA grind of blackfish/bottlenose whales
gulpswallowA gulp of swallows
herdantelope, bison, buffalo, camel, caribou, cattle, chamois, cow, curlew, deer, dinosaur, eland, elephant, elk, goat, guinea pig, hart, hartebeest, horse, ibex, impala, llama, manatee, moose, ox, reindeer, seahorse, walrus, wren, yakA herd of antelope/bison/buffalos/camels/caribou/cattle/chamois/cows/curlews/deer/dinosaurs/elands/elephants/elk/goats/guinea pigs/harts/hartebeests/horses/ibexes/impalas/llamas/manatees/moose/oxen/reindeer/seahorses/walruses/wrens/yaks
hillruffA hill of ruffs
hivebeeA hive of bees
hordegerbil, hamsterA horde of gerbils/hamsters
huskhare, jackrabbitA husk of hares/jackrabbits
implausibilitygnu, wildebeestAn implausibility of gnus/wildebeests
intrusioncockroachAn intrusion of cockroaches
kindleleveretA kindle of leverets
knobpintail, tealA knob of pintails/teals
knottoadA knot of toads
labormoleA labor of moles
lamentationswanA lamentation of swans
leapleopardA leap of leopards
leashfox, greyhoundA leash of foxes/greyhounds
littercub, kitten, pupA litter of cubs/kittens/pups
messiguanaA mess of iguanas
mischiefmouse, ratA mischief of mice/rats
mobkangarooA mob of kangaroos
murdercrowA murder of crows
murmurationstarlingA murmuration of starlings
musecaponA muse of capons
musteringstorkA mustering of storks
mutationthrushA mutation of thrushes
nestmouse, waspA nest of mice/wasps
nurseryraccoonA nursery of raccoons
ostentationpeacockAn ostentation of peacocks
paceassA pace of asses
packcoyote, dog, hound, mongoose, mule, perch, stoat, wolfA pack of coyotes/dogs/hounds/mongooses/mules/perch/stoats/wolves
pandemoniumparrotA pandemonium of parrots
paradeelephantA parade of elephants
parcelhind, hog, linnetA parcel of hinds/hogs/linnets
parliamentowl, rookA parliament of owls/rooks
partyrainbow fishA party of rainbow fish
plaguelocustA plague of locusts
plumpmoorhen, waterfowlA plump of moorhens/waterfowls
poddolphin, pelican, porpoise, seal, whaleA pod of dolphins/pelicans/porpoises/seals/whales
pricklehedgehog, porcupineA prickle of hedgehogs/porcupines
pridelion, peacockA pride of lions/peacocks
prowljaguar, smeltA prowl of jaguars/smelts
quarrelsparrowA quarrel of sparrows
quivercobraA quiver of cobras
rafterturkeyA rafter of turkeys
ragcoltA rag of colts
richnessmartenA richness of martens
rompotterA romp of otters
routsnail, wolveA rout of snails/wolves
schoolbutterfly fish, cod, dolphin, fish, porpoise, whaleA school of butterfly fish/cod/dolphins/fish/porpoises/whales
scourgemosquitoA scourge of mosquitoes
scurrychipmunk, squirrelA scurry of chipmunks/squirrels
sedgebittern, crane, heronA sedge of bitterns/cranes/herons
shiversharkA shiver of sharks
shoalbass, fish, mackerel, minnow, pilchard, shad, sticklebackA shoal of bass/fish/mackerel/minnows/pilchards/shads/sticklebacks
shrewdnessapeA shrewdness of apes
siegebitternA siege of bitterns
skeingooseA skein of (flying) geese
skulkfoxA skulk of foxes
sleuth/slothbearA sleuth of bears/A sloth of bears
smackjellyfishA smack of jellyfish
sneakweaselA sneak of weasels
sordmallardA sord of mallard
sounderboar, pig, swineA sounder of boars/(wild) pigs/(wild) swine
squadsquidA squad of squid
stablehorseA stable of horses
stareowlA stare of owls
stenchskunkA stench of skunks
stringponyA string of ponies
studmareA stud of mares
swarmbee, butterfly, dragonet fish, eel, fly, grasshopper, insect, locustA swarm of bees/butterflies/dragonet fish/grasshoppers/insects/locusts
tidingmagpieA tiding of magpies
towergiraffeA tower of giraffes
tribegoatA tribe of goats
tripdotterelA trip of dotterels
troopbaboon, dogfish, gorilla, kangaroo, monkeyA troop of baboons/dogfish/gorillas/kangaroos/monkeys
troupeshrimpA troupe of shrimp
wakebuzzard, vultureA wake of buzzards/vultures
warrenrabbitA warren of rabbits
watchnightingaleA watch of nightingales
whoopgorillaA whoop of gorillas
wisdomwombatA wisdom of wombats
wispsnipeA wisp of snipes

For English Idioms and Phrases go here!