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Collective Nouns

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Collective Nouns

Collective nouns, like Phobias, are (deservedly, IMHO) a contentious subject in quizzes.

I am convinced that most of them (apart from the obvious ones such as a flock of sheep or a pack of wolves) were made up, at some point in history, as a joke. Many of them seem to date to a very early printed book, entitled The Book of St. Albans, and these were almost certainly not meant to be taken seriously. But they have been reproduced many times over the centuries, so you could argue that they have some credence. The trouble is, if you see a collective noun on the Internet (or if it comes up in a quiz) it can be very difficult to tell whether it comes from a genuinely historic list or whether it was made up yesterday. And if it was made up yesterday, it's obviously very unfair to ask about it in a quiz!

The UK TV sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News famously made up the term "flange" for a group of baboons, as a joke; the Internet is now full of references to this, of the style "and now it's a scientifically correct term!" In reality there is very little evidence that this is the case, although there are stories that it has appeared in academic papers. To which I say: even a scientist can have a sense of humour.

Anyway ... collective nouns do keep coming up in quizzes, so here's a list of some that do – and/or that seem to me to have some validity. It doesn't include the obvious ones of the sort referred to above (flock of sheep, pack of wolves, etc.).

(For an interesting article on the issues discussed here – including more detail on The Book of St. Albans – see Precision of Lexicographers on the excellent World Wide Words website.)

Bears Click to show or hide the answer
Crows Click to show or hide the answer
Dolphins or porpoises Click to show or hide the answer
Ferrets Click to show or hide the answer
Geese in flight Click to show or hide the answer
Geese on the ground Click to show or hide the answer
Hedgehogs Click to show or hide the answer
Kangaroos Click to show or hide the answer
Larks Click to show or hide the answer
Leopards Click to show or hide the answer
Lions Click to show or hide the answer
Monkeys Click to show or hide the answer
Owls Click to show or hide the answer
Partridges Click to show or hide the answer
Peacocks Click to show or hide the answer
Ravens Click to show or hide the answer
Rhinoceroses Click to show or hide the answer
Starlings Click to show or hide the answer
Toads Click to show or hide the answer
Whales Click to show or hide the answer

If you really want to overdose on collective nouns, try this list for size. But please don't use this link as an excuse for setting obscure questions.

© Haydn Thompson 2017