Prides, murders and gaggles

While I was teaching a lesson on Skype today, we got talking about collective nouns (group names) for different animals and there are some really interesting ones so I thought I’d write a post about them.

There are a few main words that we usually use for groups of animals:

Herd (for a group of herbivores – animals which only eat plants)

Pack (for a group of carnivores – animals which only eat meat)

School (for a group of fish)

Flock (for a group of birds)

If you’re not sure of the right word, you can use these and your meaning will be clear, even if it isn’t the correct word for that specific animal – and often, it won’t be, because there are many, many special cases and exceptions!

Here are a few well known ones:

Pod of whales

Pod of dolphins

Flock of sheep (even though they aren’t birds!)

Pride of lions

Gaggle of geese

These are my favourites:

Murder of crows

Mischief of rats

Unkindness of ravens

Parliament of owls

Skulk of foxes

Unfortunately, there are no rules for these, you just have to remember them! However, a lot of the words have interesting meanings when used normally as verbs or nouns, and the character of the animal is often a little bit similar to those meanings. For example, lions seem to be very proud animals (the king of the jungle!), and the way foxes run away from people could be described as skulking – and when crows wake me up in the morning, I want to murder them! This is the best way to remember these special cases.

Good luck!

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