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Thinking caps on …

© CorbisMy last post seemed to go down quite well, so I thought I’d have another look at the weird and wonderful words associated with animals in the English language, this time collective nouns.

We’re all familiar with some of the strange words that can be used to describe groups of animals – a pod of dolphins or a school of fish, for example – but there are many more out there. Some of them are so bizarre, you’d have no hope of ever guessing them. Others are perhaps just as hard to guess, but once you know them, they seem exquisitely appropriate. And then, of course, there are the ones that are just plain funny.

So, let’s start with some easy ones – can you match the collective nouns below with the correct animals?

skein               loons
raft                 peacocks
clan of             geese
swarm            monkeys
tribe                hyenas
leap                 asses
charm            whales
school              finches
ostentation       ants
drove                 leopards

How did you get on? Alright, how about some very appropriate seeming ones:

scurry                 ducks
labour                giraffes
ambush             crocodiles
parliament       moles
float                 starlings
murmuration        rats
tower                crows
paddling         bats
cloud                squirrels
mischief          tigers

Now, what type of animal do you imagine these collective nouns might apply to?


And finally, the truly bizarre – what on earth do you think these might be?


I’ll close with what must be perhaps the cutest of the lot, and certainly, I think, my favourite: a huddle of penguins.


(Once again, there are sometimes several different words that can be used – I’ve gone for the most common, or the most entertaining!)

skein of geese
raft of loons
clan of hyenas
swarm of ants
tribe of monkeys
leap of leopards
charm of finches
school of whales
ostentation of peacocks
drove of asses

scurry of squirrels
labour of moles
ambush of tigers
parliament of crows
float of crocodiles
murmuration of starlings
tower of giraffes
paddling of ducks
cloud of bats
mischief of rats

murder of crows
congress of baboons
gang of buffalo
convocation of eagles
bazaar of guillemots
sleuth of bears
quarrel of sparrows
cast of ferrets
mob of emus
kettle of hawks

clowder of cats
quiver of cobras
cete of badgers
knot of toads
battery of barracudas

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Sharon Creese


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