I have amassed what I believe is quite possibly the world’s largest collection of words associated with animal groups. As part of the work on my upcoming book on uncommon words, I have been accumulating terms in this category for more than a decade and I have yet to come across a list as comprehensive as the one I’ve put together. But as they say, all this and about $3.50 will buy you a cup of latte at your favorite gourmet coffee shop.
It’s not that more is necessarily better, it’s just interesting to see all of the words that have come to be associated with different kinds of animals. I won’t bore you with a comprehensive list (and I have to save some surprises for my book), but here are a few of my favorites.
Maybe you’ve heard of a murder of crows? This once relatively unknown grouping was made more popular by a forgettable 1988 movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Staying with birds for a moment, a flock of geese is pretty boring, but there’s also a richness of martens, or a murmuration of starlings, an exaltation of larks, or a drumming of grouse. For the more exotic birds, there’s a flamboyance of flamingoes, although a group of flamingoes can also be referred to as a stand or when in flight, as a skein, and a group of peacocks is an ostentation. If a flock of geese is boring, a flock of geese flying in a V-formation is called a wedge, and strictly speaking, a gaggle of geese is only when they are standing on the ground, but when they’re in the water, they’re called a plump. One of my favorite bird groups is a wake of vultures. Get it?
Okay, enough about birds. Tired of hearing about swine flu? A group of hogs can be called a passel or a drift. In the livestock category, there’s a tribe of goats, a rumination of cattle, and a troop of horses, although a group of racehorses are called a field. Whales aren’t just called a school or pod, but also can be referred to as a herd, gam, grind, mob, or run. You could probably guess this next one: a group of vipers is a nest. For African animals, there’s a crossing of zebras, a memory of elephants, a crash of rhinos, and a machination of monkeys, although monkey groupings have several other terms, such as barrel. And let’s not forget a cackle of hyenas. Had enough?
Groups of bison are called a thunder, there’s a mischief of moose, a bike of bees, a shiver of sharks, and a confusion of weasels. Just a few more. A group of swans are a regatta, leopards are a leap, and groups of frogs are an army. Even groups of gerbils have their own word – a horde.
Okay, that’s enough for now. Did I fail to mention your favorite animal? Let me know and I will tell you its grouping name or names.