Collective nouns: the greatest thing in the world?

Very possibly? Here are some of my favourites:

  • A conflagration of arsonists
  • A galaxy of governesses
  • An implausibility of gnus
  • An observance of hermits
  • A rhumba of rattlesnakes
  • A shrewdness of apes
  • A superfluity of nuns

Sadly, the collective noun for guinea pigs is group. Presumably the marvellousness of guinea pigs was too much for anyone to attempt to collectively noun properly.

Here’s one of the Internet’s many lists of collective nouns. What are your favourites?

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Chally is a freelance writer by day, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. You can also catch her at Zero at the Bone; she's @ChallyWrites on Twitter.

25 Responses

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  1. Deborah
    Deborah at |

    They’re always fun to make up, too. A cuteness of guinea pigs? A cuddle of guinea pigs?

    Also, I’ve always thought it must surely be a cacophony of cockatoos.

  2. Megpie71
    Megpie71 at |

    “A disturbance of sysadmins. Because if we are, you will be. ”

    Coined by Joe Thompson in the scary devil monastery.

  3. Ariane
    Ariane at |

    Surely, it should be “an alloy of metallurgists”, not an amalgamation – that would be the collective noun for unionists.

    My personal faves are the often quoted – murder of crows and crash of rhinoceros.

  4. Peta
    Peta at |

    A parliament of owls (although I think a parliament of galahs is more appropriate)

    and of course (apologies to the Rev Spooner) a wunch of bankers.

  5. orlando
    orlando at |
  6. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    Seeing as I’m heading down south to MICF, I’m sadly aware that the collective noun for comedians has not yet arrived at a consensus. Suggestions such as “riot” sound frankly far too energetic, “heckle” and “giggle” are too obvious yet not punny enough, “pundemonium” is a tad too punny, while “misery” or “insecurity” seem too cynically stereotypical. An “embarrassment” or “discomfort” of comedians might work, although “guffaw” and “quip” my favourites because they are just so much fun to over-enunciate.

  7. Mindy
    Mindy at |

    I think you’ve cracked it Chally – a marvellousness of guinea pigs.

  8. Alison
    Alison at |

    A snuffle of puppies?

    A scream of drag queens?

    I *think* made those up – I can’t recall now!

  9. orlando
    orlando at |

    When my partner gave the speech at his brother’s wedding he invited suggestions from the floor as to the best collective noun for bridesmaids. An expectation of bridesmaids is the only one I can remember.

  10. dylan
    dylan at |

    I love a parliament of owls too.
    Back when one nation blighted the landscape I used to refer to a peril of paulines.
    I think it could be a shout of comediens.

  11. quixote
    quixote at |

    A quip of comedians. Perfect.

    And parliament of galahs, wunch of bankers. Even more perfect.

    I break into grins every time I think about it: a wunch of bankers. I think that’s become my favorite.

  12. Ariane
    Ariane at |

    I like a quip of comedians, but for some reason what keeps floating around my head is a terror of comedians.

  13. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    “Terror'” is a bit extreme, isn’t it? Maybe just a dread of comedians…works on quite a few levels that one.

  14. Ariane
    Ariane at |

    Yeah, I like the dread too. I dunno though, I think it describes the experience of the stand-up comic to some extent – at least when just beginning. I also know quite a few people who come close to terror at the thought of being targeted in an audience by a comedian. :)

  15. Alison
    Alison at |

    Ariane: I like a quip of comedians, but for some reason what keeps floating around my head is a terror of comedians.

    Freaking clowns man.

  16. SunlessNick
    SunlessNick at |

    An uncanniness of clowns.

  17. orlando
    orlando at |

    An implausability of theologians.

  18. SunlessNick
    SunlessNick at |

    A Humphrey of schemers.

  19. Rebecca
    Rebecca at |

    A bore of actuaries

    That’s the only one I can remember from when we were making them up years ago

  20. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical at |

    Okay, people, what is the name for a collection of hoydenizens? Hmm? :-) Inquiring minds, they wants to know…!!

  21. Ariane
    Ariane at |

    An outrageousness? Or perhaps a thought of hoydenizens? :)

  22. orlando
    orlando at |

    My four-year-old has just corrected me when I referred to a ‘flock’ of dragons. According to him the proper collective noun for dragons is a ‘snapdark’.

  23. Aphie
    Aphie at |

    My facebook friends and I decided a while back that it was most likely a lurch of zombies.

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