10

For rental agencies and companies, the cars owned would be a fleet. Several cars escorting a VIP would be a motorcade.

However, what if I want to say:

I dislike being the lone driver in an empty stretch of highway, so I may end up speeding to get from the [group of cars] behind me to the [group of cars] in front.

Is there a good collective noun that would apply to this situation? Or would it be a matter of choosing a general term, like group, cluster, block etc.

  • 7
    pack, cluster, bunch,... – Drew Sep 4 '14 at 20:12
  • 6
    "cars"........... – Oldcat Sep 4 '14 at 20:24
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    When you're driving on an expressway and you're surrounded by other cars, also going a pretty quick pace, and there is open space in front and in back of this group of cars, we call that being in a "pack" of cars in my part of the world. (Like running with a pack of wolves, I guess!) – Kristina Lopez Sep 4 '14 at 20:25
  • 2
    Line and mayhem is used also. – ermanen Sep 4 '14 at 20:35
  • 3
    A pride of Porsches. A smugness of Priuses. – Spehro Pefhany Sep 5 '14 at 1:31

14 Answers 14

2

Since there appears to be no exact technical term for a bunch of independent cars traveling together on a thoroughfare, you will have to go with broader terminology. I would prefer to say group of cars (which is what you started with) or even just cars as Oldcat proposed. Since there isn't a specialized term for it, many variations of this will be understood just as well.

I dislike being the lone driver in an empty stretch of highway, so I may end up speeding to get from the cars behind me to the cars in front.

  • 1
    Most of the replies are trying to coin new terms not in common use, I think this one is the 'best fit' which mentions there is no term and suggests commonly understood alternatives (since Oldcat didn't post as answer) – Alok Oct 17 '14 at 18:45
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    Note - my downvotes were deserved, since I also initially suggested an incorrect term (traffic wave). I think it is suitable as it now rests. – Daniel Oct 18 '14 at 1:26
5

A common word as a collective noun is line (as in a line of cars). With this word, you can also specifically mean the cars on your lane but it can be used for the row of cars on all lanes. Though, it might mean a production line of cars also in a business context.

Based on your example, I searched "line of cars behind" and "line of cars in front" in Google Books and there are a lot of hits. Some example usages from the results:

About this time someone noticed that a couple of huge semi trucks had become entangled in the line of cars behind us.

[Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement By Joan C. Browning, Dorothy Dawson Burlage - 2002]


The drivers in the long line of cars behind them, tried very hard not to get lost on their way to the resort.

[Sarah's Ten Fingers By Isabelle Stamler - 2013]


There was a line of cars in front of him, inching slowly forward.

[Geek High By Piper Banks - 2007]


I also found a blog site which addresses the same question and tries to answer in detail. Traffic also comes to the mind of author but he explains why it cannot be a collective noun for cars as below and he also comes up with a lot of suggestions as a collective noun:

I thought perhaps “traffic” might be the appropriate collective noun. But in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, Tom Vanderbilt explains that the word “traffic” originally referred to trade and the movement of goods, and was a positive word. Then it came to also refer to the people who were moving goods. And as “traffic” meant people moving things to trade, it all came to mean people moving vehicles in pursuit of commerce. Which is pretty much what it means today, since the worst traffic jams occur as millions of people try to get to work. In any event, “traffic” means cars and people, so it cannot be the right collective noun for cars.

http://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=2661


A comparison of common usages (a group of cars, a cluster of cars, a pack of cars, a bunch of cars, a block of cars, a crush of cars) on Google Ngram Viewer:

enter image description here


Finally, it is worth to mention mayhem but it is not commonly used as a collective noun and it also has a sense of traffic mayhem which is a more commonly used phrase.

The book "A Compendium of Collective Nouns: From an Armory of Aardvarks to a Zeal of Zebras" (By Woop Studios, Jay Sacher) mentions mayhem along with fleet and stack as a collective noun for cars. As you said, fleet is mainly used in business context and stack is mainly used for the cars that are piled up on top of each other in a junkyard.

enter image description here

Example usages of mayhem:

With the cheapest gasoline in the world and no traffic laws or speed limits, the Nigerian highways are a mayhem of cars overtaking each other to the left and right.

[Camping with the Prince and Other Tales of Science in Africa By Thomas A. Bass - 1990]


To drivers who have endured the mayhem of cars, motorbikes, barrows and container trucks that clog the alternative route, the new road looks like an obvious moneyspinner.

[The Economist, Volume 332, Issues 7870-7874 - 1994]

  • @Mari-LouA: Updated based on your suggestion. Thanks. – ermanen Sep 5 '14 at 14:44
  • It's nigh impossible to predict which questions on ELU will take off or die on their feet. I would have bet on this question attracting more visitors and interest. – Mari-Lou A Sep 6 '14 at 3:52
2

In traffic engineering and driver's ed, I've heard a group of cars referred to as a "platoon".

  • What's an ed? Edition? – Mari-Lou A Sep 5 '14 at 7:13
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    @Mari-LouA: Education. Driver's education. School for learning to drive. – Mitch Sep 5 '14 at 11:31
1

I've called them clots for decades, as they jam up the traffic arteries. I am not alone in such usage. Also, Urban dictionary:

thus everyone slows down, won't go ahead, and a "clot" of cars is created by the cop.

They make for dangerous driving, as clot dynamics are subject to the behavior of the worst driver in the clot.

1

I prefer clump as it implies something a little more arbitrary and organic than cluster.

A quick search of traffic modelling discussions found this paper which confirms my use of clump.

0

"Traffic wave" would seem to be more a matter of behavior of the entire stream of traffic, and a feature or result of interruptions in the flow.

I don't think there is a word which is in wide use for this. I don't think there's a word for this in use anywhere, actually.

But I have a proposal: a "bolus".

If you look at the uses of the word in medicine (from Wikipedia), a bolus of medication is a clump of liquid that occurs upon initial injection.

So, a clump of cars moving along the highway could be called a "traffic bolus". Or at least that is my story and I am sticking to it.

  • So, why the downvote? – Cyberherbalist Sep 5 '14 at 16:00
  • It looks like the job of a single downvoter, several answers have also been downvoted, if you click on the number between the arrows you see how many upvotes/downvotes each one has. (I think you have "earned" enough rep points) – Mari-Lou A Sep 6 '14 at 4:00
  • @Mari-LouA, you are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I am afraid that I cannot "earn" enough rep points to suit me! I am greedy about rep points! More! More! Now, you may mean that my answer here is only worth one upvote. Perhaps so, but I would not object to more. :-) – Cyberherbalist Sep 8 '14 at 16:25
  • Oh, no! I meant that you have enough rep points to see how the votes are split, but I'm not certain. You'd have to check in the help center, privileges bla, bla..., bla... :) – Mari-Lou A Sep 8 '14 at 17:12
  • Yes, @Mari-LouA, you are correct I do have enough rep points for that -- for some time now. Sorry I misunderstood your meaning! It's all good! – Cyberherbalist Sep 8 '14 at 18:43
0

Convoy is also suitable, though it’s more often used for a stream of associated military vehicles. It can be applied to non-military traffic as well.

  • 3
    Convoy is appropriate if all the members in the party are associated with each other. eg, if you and a group of friends were all travelling to a destination in several cars, you'd call it a convoy. – dwjohnston Sep 5 '14 at 4:46
  • 1
    Per meta.english.stackexchange.com/a/364 for the use–mention distinction, please use an italic face for mentions, not a bold one. It otherwise makes the page look too heavy otherwise, and furthermore runs counter to typographic convention both on this site and in scholarly works. – tchrist Sep 5 '14 at 4:48
  • @dwjohnston I can never hear convoy without thinking of this song. – tchrist Sep 5 '14 at 4:51
0

A procession of cars.

A group of persons, vehicles, or objects moving along in an orderly, formal manner.

0

Surprisingly no one yet has suggested jam. Jam is an assembly of traffickers from which one would wish to escape only to run into the back of yet another.

See also Peloton (bicycles) which gives draft (racecars) as in he is in the lead draft of cars and platoon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platoon) which appears to be a hybrid of draft, which might explain one's desire to move from pack to pack to improve mileage and safety.

  • 2
    Quite frankly I've only heard "jam" used for a traffic hold-up: traffic jam. – Dog Lover Jun 7 '15 at 4:31
-1

There is a word in use for this common phenomenon, but it's hardly universal:

I'm sitting in traffic or cruising along in an endless pocket of cars doing little more than 55mph.

[internet; 74 000 hits on Google, but one 'seat pocket of cars' and one other false positive in first 10]

  • It's obviously not an incorrect term, and it's understandable. I've heard it myself. Though it's not a collocation, I prefer it to 'bunch of cars' which mildly triggers a 'less than orderly' connotation in my mind. AHD has a sense suggesting why: bunch 2. Informal A group of people usually having a common interest or association: My brother and his bunch are basketball fanatics. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 5 '14 at 3:05
  • Pocket seems the antithesis as it normally indicates a hole in a solid or surface. – Andy Dent Sep 5 '14 at 7:07
  • This sense from R H K Webster's gives the usage in question: pocket 5. an isolated group, area, or element contrasted with a surrounding element or group: pockets of resistance. And from Google Dictionary: some of the gardens still had pockets of dirty snow in them. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 5 '14 at 8:35
-1

This is a coined expression, which was inspired by the Italian term, flusso, often used in conjunction with traffic, and we talk about the flow of traffic too.

May I suggest:

I dislike being the lone driver in an empty stretch of highway, so I may end up speeding to get from the flux of cars behind me to the flux in front.

Alternatively, continuing with the theme of water...

I dislike being the lone driver in an empty stretch of highway, so I may end up speeding to get from the tide of cars behind me to the tide in front.

-1

Usually,cars on roads travel in rows or line, the collective noun used for vehicles in a row or line is, a fleet of. Therefore, I think we can use a fleet of cars.

-1

For me any group of cars on the road is TRAFFIC.

I'm speeding up to get from the traffic behind me to the traffic ahead.

  • 5
    'Traffic' is mass noun, like 'water', meaning you don't really have more than one of it, you just have a bunch of it. A group is a single thing for which there can be more than one. – Mitch Sep 4 '14 at 20:49
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    @Mitch: Though you are right and it's not a collective noun proprie dictu, it still works in OPs context. – TimLymington Sep 4 '14 at 20:53
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    @TimLymington I don't see that. "I'm speeding up to get from the traffic behind me to the traffic ahead"? Doesn't sound right to me. – Mitch Sep 4 '14 at 20:58
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    @Mitch Really? Because it sounds perfectly comprehensible to me. – ghoppe Sep 4 '14 at 21:28
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    @ghoppe I wil go so far as to say it doesn't sound terrible (and I fully understand what it is meant), but I feel like 'why would someone say it that way because there is a more natural way, e.g. 'group of cars'. I use traffic as "There's not so much traffic here' or 'The traffic is terrible here'. I guess it's OK to say "there's bad traffic up ahead". But I feel that doesn't capture what the OP is saying, of moving from one area of bad traffic through one of low traffic to bad traffic. – Mitch Sep 4 '14 at 21:53
-3

Gradually, using well timed Lane changes and some aggressive tailgating, I worked my way to the front of the pack of too slow cars. I finally broke free of them, only within minutes to find myself feeling naked and alone on the road. So I sped up even more to catch up with yet another pack of cars moving along, well, just too damned slowly. So I started all over again.

  • 2
    Expanding a comment into an answer is acceptable but this is not a good answer, I'm afraid. While the word pack has been used, it's not obvious that that is the answer to the question. – Andrew Leach Sep 5 '14 at 6:26
  • It's a pack if it is motorcycles. – Andy Dent Sep 5 '14 at 7:06
  • "pack" is also commonly used for a group of riders in bicycle racing. – Reto Koradi Sep 6 '14 at 17:21

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