Collective nouns (not to be confused with mass nouns like water, sand or coffee) describe groups of countable things, people or animals. For animals, English has a large and colorful store of collective nouns, also known as terms of venery. Some well-known examples are a school of fish, a pack of wolves and a pride of lions.
But it's in collective nouns for birds that English really goes overboard. Here are some of the strangest and most poetic:
- A dissimulation of birds
- An unkindness of ravens
- A murder of crows
- An exaltation of larks
- A parliament of owls
- A dole (or dule) of doves
- An eyrar of swans
The practice also extended to people, with hilarious examples like an illusion of painters or an impatience of wives. In modern times, this has evolved into a kind of poetic sport, with coinages like an annoyance of neighbors.
And ultimately: a yawn of collective nouns.