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Collective nouns

English has a remarkable number of collective nouns specific to certain animals and groups of people.

Sometimes the correct word depends on what they are doing (see geese below) and sometimes the number (see partridge, below)

Here are a few of them, just for interest. A couple of them, "charm" and "rabble" are quite rare but they are included because they are so attractive. The others are in (fairly) common usage.

A bench of bishops/magistrates.
(Presumably because they used to sit on one. These days they get a comfortable chair each)

A board of directors/trustees.

A herd of cows/cattle/bison/elephants ar just about any large animal that goes about in large groups.

A flock of sheep/goats/birds.
(the kinds of birds which come together in large numbers starlings, plovers, fieldfares etc. Biologists note that ovidae and capridae species are mainly concerned. Just to confuse you, a man who looks after a flock of sheep is a shepherd )

A gaggle of geese.
(only used foe geeses and only when they are on the ground - see next for when they take off.)

A skein of geese or ducks.
(Used when they are flying, typically in a "V" formation.)

A pack of wolves and by extension, supporters, journalists, demonstrators...

A swarm of bees/wasps/hornets.

A rabble of butterflies.

A brace of partridge/grouse or any gamebird or game fish.
(A brace is two. the term is used by people who shoot or fish. If an English sportsman tells you he has shot two and a half brace of partridge, he has five in his bag! Notice the plural of brace is brace and you do not use the plural of the animal: it is two brace of partridge, a brace and a half of grouse etc)

A covey of partridge/grouse/quail.
(is a sort of family group of the gallinaceous birds - around 5 - 15 of them)

A charm of finches.
(Not many people know this, and you have to be able to distinguish a finch from other small birds however a charm of goldfinches, a small but dazzling cloud of yellow and red is indeed a charming sight in winter.

A shoal of fish.

A school of whales/porpoises.

A pack of hounds.
(Hounds are dogs which hunt (fox, deer, hare) in a group. They are not gundogs like retrievers, labradors, spaniels.)

A pride of lions.

A troop of monkeys/soldiers/scouts.

A bed of oysters (in the sea) of flowers (growing in a specially prepared plot in a park or garden).

A host of angels/sparrows.

A mob of people. (demonstrators, especially if in an aggressive mood)

A troupe of acrobats/minstrels.

A team of athletes - by extension salesmen etc.

A staff of employees.
(Often used with "on" "John was on our staff for five years but then he went to Unilever)

A gang of labourers.
(When used for youngsters it is somewhat perjorative "We were surrounded by a gang of kids all asking for money. A gang of thieves/robbers/kidnappers)

A tribe of natives.
(A distinct ethnic group)

A cortege of mourners.
(Only used for funerals)

A posse of police/sheriffs.
(Who have come together to chase a particular criminal or gang)

A crew of sailors/airmen etc
(All on the same boat/plane/tank/spaceship ... any vessel)

A coven of witches.
(Who have congregated for some purpose or celebration - Covens are supposed to gather on Walpurgis night - The witches on the heath in "Macbeth" are a fine example of a coven..)

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