Who comes up with the names of different animals in groups?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Syzygys, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Flamboyance of flamingos, destruction of wild cats, murder of crows,etc.

    1. Who came up with these?
    2. Do other languages also have such a colorful names for certain animals in groups?
    3. What is the point of naming a bunch of crows murder, instead of calling them crows??? Why, oh why???

    My mind wants to know!!!
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    I have just read this story that explains why a bunch of crows is called murder. From Reddit:

    "I was walking to school one morning and saw a group of crows, maybe two or three dozen, congregated in a circle in a field next to the road. There was a single crow in the centre of the circle cawing loudly and hopping around on the spot, none of the other birds were making any sound.
    After a couple of minutes of this, all of the crows in the circle starting started cawing loudly too, some of them flew into the centre and attacked the lone bird. They pecked it to death then all of the crows just flew away.
    I told one of our neighbours who'd lived in the area a long time about what I'd seen and he said it was called a crow court, that it was quite rare and although he'd never seen one, he knew other people who had. Local legend held that the crows were literally trying one of their own for some transgression and that the crow court was the origin of the collective noun for a group of crows, a murder."
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I've been compiling a list of these names for animal groups for a long time. Here's what I have so far. Some of these words only have this one meaning, so the etymologies in the dictionary at least try to solve the mysteries. For example, a clowder of cats comes from the word "clot," in other words a coagulation or clotted mass of cats--which is a strange word to use since cats are not social creatures by nature and don't usually crowd together unless they're starving and someone is handing out food--or there's a granary full of rodents.

    But even some of these words have origins that are lost in mystery. The best that the dictionary can do with a cete of badgers is to suggest that it's related to the word "city" as a large group of people. And this is purely logical induction, based on the similarity between burrow and borough.

    As for a murder of crows, this word is about 500 years old but nobody knows where it came from. There are various obvious speculations that we could come up with in five minutes, such as the idea that crows can be quite violent.

    So here's my list. Feel free to track down the origins!

    Apes: shrewdness
    Asses ("donkeys" or "burros" to us Yanks): pace
    Baboons: congress
    Badgers: cete
    Bears: sloth, sleuth
    Cats: clowder, pounce; kittens: kindle, litter, intrigue
    Cattle: drove, herd
    Crows: murder
    Deer (roe): herd, bevy
    Dogs: litter (young), pack (wild), cowardice (curs): cry, mute, pack, kennel (hounds)
    Dotterels (several species of plover): trip
    Elephants: herd
    Elk: gang
    Ferrets: business
    Fox: leash, skulk, earth
    Geese: gaggle
    Giraffe: tower
    Goats: tribe, trip
    Gorillas: band
    Hares: down, husk
    Hippopotamuses: bloat
    Horses: team, harras, rag (colts) stud (group belonging to a single owner), string (ponies)
    Larks: exaltation
    Leopards: leap
    Lions: pride
    Moles: labor
    Monkeys: troop, barrel
    Mules: pack, span, barren
    Otters: romp
    Oxen: team, yoke
    Peacocks: ostentation
    Plovers: stand, wing, congregation
    Porcupines: prickle
    Rabbits: colony, warren, nest, herd (domestic), litter (young)
    Rhinoceroses: crash
    Seals: pod, herd
    Sheep: drove, flock, herd
    Squirrels: dray, scurry
    Whales: pod, gam, herd
    Wolves: pack; rout or route (when moving)
    Zebras: dazzle
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.

Share This Page