A murder of crows: Fun with collective nouns

A gaggle of geese.
A school of fish.
A flock of sheep.
A nest of hornets.

These animal groupings are called collective nouns, and I’m sure they’re well known to you and your kids. But have you heard of any of these?

A murder of crows.
A crash of rhinoceroses.
An unkindliness of ravens.
An exaltation of larks.
An implausibility of gnus.
A memory of elephants.

I love these! Could word usage be any more fun?

If you want to take a humorous trip down vocabulary lane, check out this link and learn all sorts of interesting collective nouns people have attributed to birds, fish, and mammals. From what I’ve gathered, some of the terms date back to the 1400s. Many may be archaic, but for the most part, they’re purely entertaining!

Fun with Words: Collective Nouns for Animals

I think it would be great to encourage your children to write a poem using these unusual animal groupings. Maybe we could call our collection a ponderance of poems.

Do you have a few favorites from the collective animal nouns list? Share them in the comments. And while you’re at it, why not make up a new collective noun of your own? I think a ponderance of poems is a great place to start!

[Edited: Sherri alerted me to a wonderful song by Carrie Newcomer called A Crash of Rhinoceros, about how Adam named the animals. You just have to check out these fabulous lyrics!]

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6 comments ↓

#1 Caroline Hogan on 05.17.10 at 12:18 pm

If you are interested…there is a poster available that my boss, Diane DeCillis created, called “A Volary of Words”. She researched these collective nouns and put them on a poster. Great for classrooms! The Print Gallery is in Southfield, Michigan. Check it out! It’s probably on their website http://www.everythingart.com

(I have one in my homeschool classroom. It think it sells for around $20)

#2 joy simpson on 05.17.10 at 2:02 pm

Hi Kim
Two of my favourite books are A Drove of Bullocks and A Filth of Starlings by PatrickGeorge. Both are focused around collective nouns using rich language to describe them.

#3 Kim on 05.17.10 at 2:14 pm

Joy: These books look great. Are they out of print? I added links in case anyone is interested in locating them on Amazon.

Caroline: Thanks for the poster resource. Love it! I may order one for my office just because it’s such fun. The poster is beautiful, and there’s also some great alliteration going on: A glint of goldfish, a rhumba of rattlesnakes, a shiver of sharks. Wonderful!

#4 JoJo Tabares on 05.17.10 at 7:42 pm

LOVE this!

#5 Sherri on 05.21.10 at 5:36 pm

There is also a great song by Carrie Newcomer called, “A Crash of Rhinoceros.” Enjoy!!

#6 Kim on 05.21.10 at 9:32 pm

Sherri: Thank you so much for letting me know about Carrie Newcomer’s song. What a treat!

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