I'm looking for a pair of words that essentially means "super-collection" and "collection" where the super-collection contains a set of collections. (Alternatively, could be thought of as a "collection" which contains a set of "sub-collections".) I want the words to NOT use either "super" or "sub". I'm open to general English or jargon from specific domains.

Example usage:

Ok, we've got five _<collections>_ – let's group them together into a _<super-collection>_.

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    Is there a particular reason why you need to avoid super- and sub- ?
    – choster
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 20:27
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    They could be grouped into an aggregate, for example. Or google synonym superset aggregate and take your pick. Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 20:52
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    @Jim: No, superset and subset are not at all the critters being asked about. A is a superset of B, and B is a subset of A, if every element of B is an element of A. What the OP is asking about is a set of sets, not a set that contains the same elements and possibly more. The key words in the question are set of collections.
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 21:17
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    @Jim: It's these parts of the question that do not fit that meaning: (1) "a set of smaller collections", in the title, and (2) "contains a set of collections" in the question body. Those clearly indicate a set (or collection) of sets (or collections), and not just a set (or collection) that contains the same members (and possibly more).
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 21:28
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    @Ghopper21 what are the things that you are grouping together? Documents, people, buildings, plants, etc?
    – John Feltz
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 21:48

6 Answers 6


This question asks for abstract collective nouns that have an intuitive hierarchy, with one word each for what in mathematics would be called a "set" and "set of sets."

Approach 1: Use a collective noun with a suffix for the second "set of sets" term in order to emphasize the higher-order act of bringing-together.

  • We combined five groups into an aggregation.
  • We combined five sets into a collection.

Approach 2: Use a more specific collective noun for the set, and a more general for the set of sets. The question is carefully phrased to avoid the domain of the set items / objects, however if there is a domain then this would be a good strategy.

  • From the photos we combined five albums into a collection.
  • From the auction items we combined five lots into a collection.
  • It would be appealing if we could use shorter and longer words with an implicit relationship to imply the hierarchy, but combining lots into an allotment isn't clear, and a collection of lects is nonsense. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 15:34
  • Thanks. This morning I thought of "neighborhood" and "block" which of course is very domain-specific.
    – Ghopper21
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 18:00


let's group them together into a lot


Noun, informal

a particular group, collection, or set of people or things


For some reason, your question reminds me of how Russell and Whitehead defined "number". As I remember it, a "number" is "the class of all classes equivalent to the given class".

I see no reason you can't use collection to characterize a set of smaller collections.


collection: something that is collected

If the "something that is collected" is a collection, the result remains a collection.

Your example:

Ok, we've got 5 collections -- let's group them together into a collection.


Since you are open to language from specific domains how about clan or tribe?

Ok, we've got five families – let's group them together into a clan or tribe.

  • Downvoter could you explain so I may be a better contributor?
    – AllInOne
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 14:16

What about using parent & child

"Ok, we've got 5 children -- let's group them together into a parent."


While this is a suffix, not a word, you could look in to using -ana to form the word you want. Depending on the nature of the collections, you might be able to use the suffix -ana to make a word that describes the larger collection. Dictionary.com's definition for the suffix is

a suffix that forms collective nouns denoting an assembly of items, as household objects, art, books, or maps, or a description of such items, as a bibliography, all of which are representative of or associated with the place, person, or period named by the stem: Americana; Shakespeareana; Victoriana.

Using the suffix along with the person/place/etc. that is the topic of each collection could, depending on the context, make a specific word for a specific situation, but doesn't make a general word to describe a collection of collections.

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