21 May 2008

Venereal words

My blog entry showing a huge group of cownose rays prompted the question of the proper term for such a gathering. Most people are at least tangentially familiar with James Lipton's book "An Exaltation of Larks," which lists the appropriate collective terms for groups of animals and birds. As I searched the web regarding the rays, I couldn't find a consistent term for that species.

Then, to my consternation, the Random House Dictionary didn't even offer a definition of the word "venereal" to refer to a collective term for groups of creatures. So I went to what I consider the "gold standard" - the OED - and to my amazement, "venereal" is defined only in sexual terms or in relation to the planet Venus. "Venery" is there as a word related to the hunt or chase (which is where the collective terms first developed), but "venereal is curiously absent.

But back to the rays. There are a variety of links on the web listing venereal terms for different groups. THIS ONE covers some mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. THIS list extends to people and things. This Wordinfo site is excellent, though their list seems to terminate at the letter "F." This list includes humorous contrivances, and this one has accumulated 765 entries.

The modern offerings are more fun than the traditional ones. Consider...
a column of accountants
a hive of allergists
a slew of assassins
a "heard" of audiologists
a rash of dermatologists

But nary an offering on any of those sites for a large group of cownose (or other) rays.


  1. Hi! It's Tess again. Thank you for answering my question! Here are some animal group names:

    A Herd of Antelopes
    A Sleuth of Bears
    A Swarm of Bees
    A Flock of Birds
    A Cluster or a Clowder of Cats
    A Herd or a Drive of Cattle
    A Kennel or a Pack of Dogs
    A Drover or a Herd of Donkeys
    A Team or a Padding of Ducks
    A Herd of Elephants
    A Pair of Ferrets
    A Brood of Fowls
    A Skulk of Foxes
    A Herd of Giraffes
    A Tribe or a Herd of Goats
    A Gaggle or a Skein of Geese
    A Down of Hares
    A Cast of Hawks
    A Herd of Hippopotamus
    A Herd of Horses
    A Herd or a Mob of Kangaroos
    A Leap of Leopards
    A Pride of Lions
    A Flock of Ostriches
    A Herd or a Drove of Pigs
    A Flock of Pigeons
    A Warren or a Colony of Rabbits
    A Crash of Rhinoceroses
    A Colony of Seals
    A Drove or a Flock of Sheep
    An Ambush of Tigers
    A Pod or School of Whales
    A Herd of Zebras

    Pretty cool hey? This is from my school planner/diary.

    1. If you like this list of Animal Groups you will love Jim McMullan's new children's book...

      AMAZON BOOK LINK: http://www.amazon.com/Flocks-Herds-Litters-Schools-McMullan/dp/1450793614

  2. A *down* of hares? I wonder whether this is where Richard Adams got Watership Down from.... Made me smile, anyway :-)

    Thanks, Tess and Stan!!

    (Yes I know ... Watership Down = rabbits not hares ... but close, close)

    PS I love the crash of rhinoceroses too ...

  3. It should be a balding of hares.

  4. What would be an appropriate venereal term for a group of librarians? An index of librarians? A codex of librarians?

  5. How about a reference of librarians? I'm not one, but worked in one as a page for several years.


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