Collective Nouns Question

Why “A murder of crows”?

Most of the rest seem to make some sense : “A pride of lions”, “Gaggle of Geese”, etc. But that crow one has me confused, unless it has something to do with Poe’s The Raven.

Please enlighten this ignoramus! :smiley:



WAG, but it could have something to do with the place birds, especially nice black ones like crows and ravens have in folklore (before Poe). I know ravens are harbingers of evil - crows probably have a similar position. Anyone know the collective term for ravens?

A group of ravens is a “congress” at this site:
and an “unkindness” at this one:

I found “conspiracy” (also listed is “unkindness”) here:

and also here:

“Congress” appears to refer to baboons (if you don’t believe me look at Washington DC).

So the answer appears to be: “conspiracy” (certainly what I was told when I was younger) or less commonly: “unkindness”

Bear in mind that many (even most) of these collective nouns were created by medieval bestiary authors to fit the particular human trait which that animal was supposed to represent. I would guess that those for crows and ravens were linked to these bird’s role as scavengers around battle sites, execution grounds, and other places with dead bodies.

Animal groups were named, often whimsically, in the medieval English “venereal game” played among the hunting classes, which resulted in “terms of venery” or “venereal terms”—collective nouns for animal groups. See generally James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks (1991). For some lists of venereal collective nouns, see Melissa Kaplan, “Beastly Garden of Wordy Delights”; Christchurch City Libraries, “Animal Group Names (Collective Nouns)”;, “Names of Males, Females, Babies, and Groups of Animals”; Fun With Words, “Collective Nouns”; Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, “Animal Congregations, or What Do You Call a Group of . . . ?”