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What Are Collective Nouns?

Last updated 4 years ago

"A few" and "a group of" are phrases we use when we talk about a number of people, animals, or things. They're useful words, but not very interesting. We can add spice and power to our writing by replacing vague terms with specific words.

Collective nouns - words that refer to a collection or group as a whole - can put concrete images and surprising new associations into our writing.

The collective nouns we hear most often refer to animals – a herd of cows, a pack of wolves, and an army of ants. They help us visualize these animals more clearly by giving us concrete images.

Less common collective nouns also surprise us with images that evoke emotions or personality traits we recognize in the animals being described. These phrases show us multi-sensory images:

  • Pride of lions
  • Flamboyance of flamingos
  • Skulk of foxes
  • Murder of crows
  • Ostentation of peacocks
  • Pandemonium of parrots
  • Unkindness of ravens
  • Mischief of mice

Writing Project
In addition to enlivening our own writing, we can use Collective Nouns to inspire our children's creative writing. First, create a short list of Collective Nouns to explore and talk about.

Then, ask your children what names they might come up with if they were inventing new collective nouns for their writing subjects. What, for example, might a group of monsters be called? How about a collection of chores they don't want to do?

What other activities using Collective Nouns can you think of? Let us know the next time you visit us at The Literacy & Language Center!

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