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While some of these are unquestionably used (a clowder of cats, a pack of dogs), many just surprise me. For example “a cackle of hyenas”, “a memory of elephants”... For the latter I found a confirming article, namely this one.

Edit: I realise the impracticality of going through each word in the list. That’s why I reworded to “any” almost immediately. I expected that native speakers would quickly recognise at least one construction, for instance “a cackle of hyenas”, as a hoax. Although I have been an avid reader of English prose for decades, I had no idea about the origins of venery and that it was actually meant to be funny!

  • Closely related: Are 'streak' and 'ambush' really the collective nouns for tigers?. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 22:51
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    A large proportion of all terms of venery are "hoaxes" in that they were inventions of clever authors, not terms in common usage, e.g. an impatience of wives and an unhappiness of husbands. The Boke of Saint Albans and all that.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 23:02
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    @user159691 They are terms of venery, which means that they are quite likely to have been made up just to be a bit funny and act as linguistic curios and There is another piece of circumstantial evidence: terms of venery in English are often quite transparently meant to be amusing or exaggerated gibes at perceived characteristics of the animal in question. and It was lingual fun. The trend developed in the middle of the 15th century and one of the first such lists occurs in The Bokys of Haukyng ... better known as Boke of Seynt Albans or The Book of St. Albans printed 1486.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 23:28
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    @Mari-LouA that’s why I reworded the question to “any”. Obviously you are not supposed to check all of them. The hope was that one of them be identified as a hoax.
    – Ludi
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 23:45
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    A grumble of grammarians grimace. Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


It appears that the following g terms are actually used, known as “terms of venery”

As for cackle, the following extract from Quora comments:

There is also a poetic term, 'a cackle of hyenas', but this is very rarely used, much like 'a dazzle of zebras' - no zoologist would use these terms. They would say 'a clan of hyenas' and 'a herd of zebras'.

Memory of Elephants

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    I would naturally say a pack of hyenas myself.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 22:46
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    @tchrist - I would say a laughter of hyenas.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 23:16
  • I've always called the gang nearby a Titter of hyenas.
    – Elliot
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 4:43

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