What's the difference between "flock" and "congregation". The first one seems more descriptive, expressive, and literary while the other is quite neutral. Is it so?

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  • Your question is unclear. The first is informal, and not as precise. But, as you suggest, it's more "literary". It can also be used in cases where the second wouldn't fit, as with a street preacher, or even a politician. – Hot Licks Jun 14 '17 at 20:50
  • Are you asking for an opinion? Everybody has one. :-) But see Don't ask regarding subjective questions. – MikeJRamsey56 Jun 14 '17 at 20:53
  • 1
    Are you referring to both as nouns? Their shared definitions involve a religious sense; is this your intended meaning? This will be very difficult to answer without more context. – fixer1234 Jun 14 '17 at 21:38

In the context of a group of folks who belong to a specific church, they are often used synonymously. Flock, however, is more metaphorical -- it comes, iirc, from the beginning of psalm 23:

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

So it refers to all those watched over by god/the church/the priest/etc., as in this definition:



1.4 A Christian congregation or body of believers, especially one under the charge of a particular minister.
‘Thomas addressed his flock’

Meanwhile, congregation is more specific:



  1. A group of people assembled for religious worship.
    ‘the singing of psalms by the whole congregation’

    1.1 A group of people regularly attending a particular place of worship.
    ‘he was a member of the Emmanuel Chapel congregation’

This is related to the verb congregate as in "Gather into a crowd or mass."

So a congregation is the group of people that regularly come together for services or other observations and a flock can refer to all the people a priest/pastor/rabbi/etc or congregation serves (such as the homeless fed by a church congregation.)

But they are often used interchangeably.

(Note: I haven't been religious in any way for a very long time, so my memories/interpretation may be a bit off compared to today.)

  • Note that that the application to Christians derives from the fact that Jesus is commonly referred to as "the Good Shepherd". – Hot Licks Jun 14 '17 at 23:39
  • Wouldn't that appellation come from Psalm 23 as well? There is a lot of talk about shepherds in the bible (they didn't have a lot of physicists or neurosurgeons running around in those days) so it seems an obvious metaphor. – Roger Sinasohn Jun 15 '17 at 5:04

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