Collective Nouns

collective nouns banner

A collective noun is the name given to a group or collection of one type of thing
a herd of sheep
a shoal of fish

Some collective nouns are very general:
herd is used with herbivore animals such as
a herd of cows
a herd of elephants
a herd of zebras
a herd of donkeys
a herd of horses 

There are also more specific collective nouns, such as:
a zeal of zebras
a parade of elephants

A collective noun may be used with unrelated groups:

a pack of dogs 
a pack of rats
a pack of mules
a pack of stoats
a pack of weasels
a pack of sheep
a pack of grouse
a pack of bears
a pack of sharks
a pack of thieves
a pack of lies
a pack of cards

A group may have more than one collective noun:

a flock of ducks 
a brace of ducks 
a badling of ducks
a raft of ducks
a paddling of ducks
a team of ducks

There may be a nuance of difference between the terms, but not always.
In the above list:  
brace and balding are used when ducks are on the ground
raft, paddling and team when duck are on water

In English there are hundreds of collective nouns for animals, people and things. 
Here are some common ones

Collective Nouns for People

a crowd of people
a circle of friends
a choir of singers
a cast of actors
a troupe of acrobats
a gang of criminals
a bunch of crooks
a mob of angry people
a crowd of onlookers
a class of pupils
a panel of experts
an army of soldiers
a crew of sailors
a patrol of policemen
a board of directors
a staff of employees
a panel of judges
a crew of airplane personnel
a congregation of worshipers 
a tribe of natives
a dynasty of kings
a peck of Frenchmen
a number of mathematicians
a torque of mechanics

collective noun models

 

a slouch of models

collective noun penguins 5


a colony of penguins

Collective Nouns for Animals

a herd of herbivore animals 
a pack of canine animals 
a flock of birds
a shoal of fish
a swarm of insects
a litter of puppies, kittens, cubs
a glaring of cats
a pride of lions
a gaggle of geese
a brood of chickens
a clutch of chicks
a flock of sheep
a school of whales
a hum of bees
an army of caterpillars
an army of ants
a plague of rats
a caravan of camels
a glint of goldfish
a coalition of cheetahs
an intrusion of cockroaches
a mischief of mice
a parliament of owls
a squadron of manta ray

Collective Nouns for Things

a pack of cards
a ream of paper
a stack of boxes
a bunch of flowers, grapes
a fleet of cars, ships
a flotilla of ships
a pile of rubbish
a set of cutlery
a cluster of diamonds
a wealth of information
a wad of money (notes)
a dossier of documents
a string of beads
a shower of blows (hits)
a roll of cloth
a bale of hay
a flight of steps
a chain of events
a library of books
a bunch of keys
a portfolio of investments
a belt of asteroids
a chain of islands

collective nouns shoes 3


a scandal of shoes

Collective Nouns for Food

a hand of bananas
a batch of bread
a pile of biscuits
a holiness of donuts
a round of drinks
a rack of ribs
a pod of peas
a hill of beans
a sheaf of wheat
a stack of pancakes
a bunch of carrots
a basket of fruit
a sack of potatoes
a punnet of strawberries
a bunch of grapes
a bushel of apples
a sizzle of sausages

collective noun mushrooms 4


a troop of mushrooms

collective noun aircraft


a circus of fighter aircraft

Amusing collective nouns

a crash of software
a groan of puns
a luck of dice
a knot of shoelaces
a pounce of cats
an unhappiness of husbands
an argument of wizards
a flush of lavatories
a fright of ghosts
an embarrassment of riches
a shrewdness of apes
a nest of rumours
a body of pathologists
a meaning of dictionaries
a concert of yes men

Singular Verb or Plural Verb with Collective Nouns?

The verb has to agree in number with the collective noun:

There was a bunch of grapes on the plate.
There were three bunches of grapes on the plate.

If the collective noun is in the singular i.e. there’s only one group of the collective noun, then:  

the singular verb is used when the members of the group are acting together as one unit
The panel of experts is meeting.  (all together doing the same thing)

the plural verb is used when individuals in the group are each acting differently
The panel of experts have finished for the day and are going home. (all going in different directions and means of transport)

Wikipedia has a more complete and scholarly list of collective nouns

If you’re a collective nouns geek you can contribute your ideas for collective nouns

If you learned something, share it!