A Collective Noun in English is the name given to a number of things when taken together and spoken of as a whole. Often we use generic collective nouns in everyday speech to refer to a collection of any type of thing and not to one specific type of thing. For example, the collective noun group can be used for many different things, such as a group of people, a group of holiday makers, a group of school children, etc.
Where Collective Nouns become interesting in English, is when they are specific to one particular group of things, usually animals or people. For example, the collective noun pride specifically refers to a group of lions and nothing else. You can have a pride of lions, but not a pride of wolves or a pride of fish. Indeed, wolves and fish have there own collective nouns, we say a pack of wolves and a school of fish.
Animals, such as mammals, birds and fish, account for the majority of these specific collective nouns and this dates back to hunting traditions of the Late Middle Ages, where huntsman would give special names to a specific group of animals, often based on a feature of the animal in question.
We have put together a FREE worksheet – List of Collective Nouns – that lists the more well known animal collective nouns and which is broken down into the different classifications of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and insects.
After animals, different groups of people are the next most common type of collective nouns, and these can often be quite comical or witty, again based on a characteristic or feature of the group of people in question. Some of the wittier collective nouns for people include:
- A goring of butchers
- A sneer of butlers
- A hastiness of cooks
- A sentence of judges
- A converting of preachers
- A prudence of vicars
- A gaggle of women
If you would like to practice what you have learnt in this lesson and indeed other lessons that cover Collective Nouns, then why don’t you check out our different ESL collective noun worksheets.
We currently have the following Premium ESL Worksheets for sale:
- Collective Nouns: Animals ($1.99 – Teacher License)
David James Ault, Founder of ESL Worksheets
Here are some more resources for Collective Nouns:
- Collective Nouns of People – A list of interesting collective nouns for people.
- Collective Nouns Exercise – A free pdf from ABC Teach.
- Collective Nouns Vocabulary Game – An online collective nouns quiz.