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I'm trying to find a couple antonyms of the word "menagerie". Some word that means a group of clones, or a collection of virtually identical things. I haven't been able to find one. Can you help me?

EDIT: this word must fit:

"Mr. Smith had a ______ of birds. They all looked exactly the same."

(Must imply the birds being the same w/o second sentence)

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    Here, "flock" is best, with an explanation to follow (e.g., Exactly as in if they were cloned."). But since you preclude sameness without a second sentence, the most intelligible solution would be to state explicitly a "...flock of cloned birds." Even if there is an antonym, most readers will not know its meaning. In science fiction, clone-sibs are often of the same creche. – KWinker Sep 16 '16 at 4:32
  • Wait - are the birds/group actual clones? Or did you just use that word to get he point across that the group is one homogeneous type? – BruceWayne Sep 16 '16 at 15:29
  • Since we're talking about animals, and groups of animals are often given whimsical one-off names ("a murder of crows"), perhaps you could put any semi-appropriate word in the blank and still be understood. "A continuity of pigeons", perhaps. – Doug Warren Sep 16 '16 at 19:34

11 Answers 11

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See my comment for Richard Kayser, above.

In the military, the attempt in Basic Training is to eliminate differences between soldiers among the ranks. Individuality is discouraged, except for the exceptional standout, who ends up in a key unit, such as the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, etc.

Everyone else is, by design, made to look just like the next guy. There are many opinions as to why this is, but the fact is, it is this way. Every man gets the same uniform. The haircuts are the same, even the glasses are identical, except for the prescription.

So, maybe an army term based on size would be suitable, with an adjective preceding it to further describe the collection.

For example, some size words: squad, platoon, brigade, army... "Mr. Smith had a squad of birds. They all looked exactly the same." "Mr. Smith had a platoon of birds. They all looked exactly the same." "Mr. Smith had a brigade of birds. They all looked exactly the same." "Mr. Smith had an army of birds. They all looked exactly the same."

Adjectives to describe the collection: unorganized, disciplined, undisciplined, etc. "Mr. Smith had an unorganized squad of birds. They all looked exactly the same." "Mr. Smith had a disciplined squad of birds. They all looked exactly the same." "Mr. Smith had an undisciplined squad of birds. They all looked exactly the same."

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Sorry but no such word exists and it would be much more useful for you to completely rephrase the question, than to pursue it as originally posed.

“Menagerie” does always mean a group of creatures but it's by no means always assumed that they’re different creatures.

“Menagerie” does have more to do with the place where they are kept or cared for than the creatures themselves.

Either way, asking for an “opposite” or “antonym” of “menagerie” or any word like it, is rather like asking for an “opposite” or “antonym” of “people” or of “fish”.

My point is that that kind of thinking should be recognised as a dead end, and turned away from.

A word for a group or herd or bunch or flock of birds that all looked exactly the same is such a different thing, it’s very unlikely to be found from that perspective.

Unless I and others have completely misunderstood, the concept is much too broad to be expressed in a simple sentence such as "Mr. Smith had a ______ of birds. They all looked exactly the same" - the more so if the answer “Must imply the birds being the same w/o second sentence.”

Aside from the original question, can you please rephrase “They all looked exactly the same" to express your meaning in different words?

  • Yeah, wut? Again with these "opposite" questions. OP is looking for the word[s] (single) species. – Mazura Oct 7 '16 at 8:32
  • Yeah, wut, Mazura? Is that why Christine said she wanted "a word" that meant the opposite of menagerie? Why she wanted "an antonym" or "a word" or "some word" and hadn't been able to find "one" and then added a note to specify "this word…"? How might any pair of word[s] including "(single) species" fit Christine's bill? – Robbie Goodwin Oct 7 '16 at 23:09
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The word you are looking for may be embodied in the phase you've mentioned in your question -- "groups of clones". This usage of clones as individual organisms is consistent with the following definition from Dictionary.com:

clone: a cell, cell product, or organism that is genetically identical to the unit or individual from which it was derived.

However, Dictionary.com also provides the following definition:

clone: a population of identical units, cells, or individuals that derive from the same ancestral line. [emphasis added]

So it would seem that clone works in your example, and it works without the second sentence:

"Mr. Smith had a clone of birds."

Translation: "Mr. Smith had a population of identical individual birds derived from the same ancestral line."

  • None of the other standard online dictionaries have the "population of individuals" meaning, so I wonder whether Dictionary.com has got this wrong (excuse my heresy!). More importantly, would a reader interpret "a clone of birds" as the writer intends, or as "an individual clone of (unnamed) birds"? Nonetheless, +1 for a potentially simple solution backed up by research and reference. – Chappo Sep 16 '16 at 5:25
  • @Chappo Thanks. I didn't check multiple dictionaries, as I often do. To tell you the truth, if clone is not a viable one-word answer, I don't know what would be. – Richard Kayser Sep 16 '16 at 5:37
  • I think "Flock of cloned birds" or possible "cloned flock of birds" is better in this instance. – paulzag Sep 16 '16 at 6:55
  • @richard: I agree that there's no single word to cover the two purposes of collective noun and "identicality" - there's never been the need to pair these concepts. I'd been toying with the neologism "a clonery", but that's not a real solution. – Chappo Sep 16 '16 at 7:54
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    This usage is actually the very first definition given in the OED for the noun: "1. a. Bot. A population of genetically identical plants which have arisen from a single parent by means of natural or artificial vegetative propagation (e.g. by the use of grafts, cuttings, etc., or by apomixis)."* I can't link to it, as it's subscription-based. I think in context with the plural birds it would be understandable, and distinguishable from "Mr. Smith had a clone of a bird." I might mistake it for a newly-coined term of venery, à la a murder of crows etc., but wouldn't find it unintelligible. – 1006a Sep 16 '16 at 19:02
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If you look at the definition of menagerie, it isn't specific to an assortment of species, although that is often, or often assumed to be, the case.

It stems from the french ménagerie meaning "the management of a household" or farm or "a place where animals are tended." Though in that paragraph it is admittedly commented that it is predominantly taken to mean a mixture.

To come to the point of your question, the least ambiguous way to phrase what you wish to as far as I can see is to phrase the point differently:

e.g. "Mr. Smith had a flock of identical-looking/seemingly identical ravens."

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Mr Smith had a Homogeneity of birds. But I would say Mr Smith had a homogeneous group of birds. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homogeneous

  • This answer would be improved by adding a link to the definition of homogeneity and an example of its usage in such context. – Sam Sep 27 '16 at 13:02
  • merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homogeneous. An example .. Japan is a homogeneous society and stays that way through low immigration policies and a somewhat racist mindset that is held by many. – Mr. Durden Sep 27 '16 at 15:14
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Could you rephrase and still convey the information you intend by stating he had "flock of doppelganger birds"? This is not one word so (-1) myself, but this verbiage lends fantastic imagery to the sentence imo.

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Mr. Smith had a monotonous collection of birds.

Monotonous connotes sameness or

wearisome uniformity or lack of variety, as in occupation or scenery (Dictionary.com)

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The only way you could have a collection of birds that looks exactly the same would be if you made them, i.e., if you cloned them from a single bird. So, let's assume that we can clone birds.

If we can do that, we can have a production run or run of birds. According to Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster, respectively:

production run: a continuous period or spell of producing something; specifically a run in the manufacture of a product

run: the quantity of work turned out in a continuous operation, e.g., a press run of 10,000 copies

Okay, so now we've had a run of birds. How can we characterize the results of that run? Well, we could characterize the results as a run or as an edition. From Merriam-Webster:

edition: the whole number of articles of one style put out at one time

This logic leads to the following possible answers to the OP's question:

"Mr. Smith had a run of birds. They all looked exactly the same." (Must imply the birds being the same w/o second sentence)

"Mr. Smith had an edition of birds. They all looked exactly the same." (Must imply the birds being the same w/o second sentence)

Both run and edition appear to meet the OP's stated requirements:

  • They render unnecessary the second sentence in the OP's example.

  • They are "words that mean a group of clones, or a collection of virtually identical things."

You have to think of them in futuristic terms, I.e., as applying once we have developed the technology to clone birds.

Note: Logic aside, I still rather like my other answer to the OP's question, but it hasn't gotten much traction -- one up vote and one down vote, for a net zero. :-)

  • On your comment, "The only way you could have a collection of birds that looks exactly the same would be if you made them, i.e., if you cloned them from a single bird", I would submit that an army platoon attempts to make everyone look identical. While not exact clones, they are similar enough that from a distance you cannot tell them apart, easily. – Sensii Miller Oct 6 '16 at 23:33
  • @SensiiMiller It all comes down to what the OP is seeking. There is certainly more than one way to interpret the question. I like that you're thinking. – Richard Kayser Oct 7 '16 at 1:11
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You may need to reach into the realm of the figurative to generate the expression you need.

Consider the following metaphors:

"Mr. Smith had a Danto's Gallery of birds. They all looked exactly the same."

"Mr. Smith had an avian Gallery of Indiscernibles. All his birds looked the same."

"Mr. Smith had an Aviary of Indiscernibles. All his birds looked the same."

Arthur Danto was a philosopher who came up with a thought experiment involving a gallery of qualitatively identical red canvases, each painted with a different intention. This hypothetical gallery has come to be called the Gallery of Indiscernibles.

If you don't mind the figurative language or the high-brow reference, you might consider one of the above sentences or variations on them.

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"Matched set". This could apply to anything, including animals or any other collection. It is true that "matched" does not literally imply identical ("a matched set of chess pieces"), but in many cases it does ("matched set of duelling pistols"). I think "matched set of birds" would suggest that they were hatched at the same time from the same parents, and are nearly identical. If they are truly identical, then you can use "set of identical ___" or similar.

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"Mr. Smith had a colony of birds."

In that sense a "Colony" is a community of animals of one kind living close together or forming a herd.

For example: Never decide to remove an established bird colony from its location, this can be very disastrous.

  • Does colony imply virtually identical? No more so than flock. – Richard Kayser Sep 16 '16 at 19:02

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