Don't you find the words to name various groups of animals strange? Here are just some examples:

  • Group of cats (wild): Destruction
  • Group of crows: Murder
  • Group of ravens: Unkindness
  • Group of rhinos: Crash
  • Group of seabirds: Wreck
  • Group of trout: Hover
  • Group of wombats: Wisdom

What the heck?!

  • What the heck? Where's the question? This post is seriously off-topic, if you can't come up with one. Ah, the question is in the title. – Mari-Lou A Sep 13 '15 at 4:17
  • @Mari-LouA I stated my question pretty clearly in the post title. – Alex Markov Sep 13 '15 at 4:20
  • An excellent post: Etymology of “a pride of lions Less excellent: A murder of crows? – Mari-Lou A Sep 13 '15 at 4:20
  • 3
    There is no method or system, it's fantasy and humour. – rogermue Sep 13 '15 at 6:04
  • Same methodology as regular words: some are there from the beginning (a 'pack of wild dogs', some are made up by a single clever person 'murder of crows'. – Mitch Sep 14 '15 at 14:28

It's deliberate, there was a fashion for inventing contrived humorous names for groups of animals and people, from the end of the 15th century - see for example Book of St Albans.

It is possibly that there were specific technical terms for such groups in hunting or falconry or other high class sports, and so people wanting to copy high class behavior created similarly obscure terms. Or possibly it was just a silly fad - the 4chan of the the 1400s

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These are called collective nouns:

A noun that denotes a group of individuals (e.g., assembly, family, crew).

oxford dictionaries

They don't all sound this weird:

a group of cows is called a herd,

a group of lions is called a pride,

and a group of ants is called a colony.


They aren't just for animals. Weird or not my favorite one is a scourge of vampires.

Asking for the methodology for naming collective nouns is like asking for the methodology for naming nouns. What methodology gave us the word cat? Any particular collective noun may have an etymology one could discover but the methodology really just comes down to useage. Those that didn't catch on didn't get used and so sound weird to us when they're discovered.

Some that sound weird aren't even animals:

a stack of librarians

a groove of DJs

oxford dictionaries

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