The Name Game, Collectively Speaking


There is a fun little reference book out there called An Exaltation of Larks.  I’ve had a copy of it on my writer’s resource shelf for several years and pull it down every once and a while to thumb through it.  The book lists the names of collective groupings of a particular animal or object,  or in other words, “nouns of multitude”.  It includes such commonplace terms as

  • A pod of whalesEOL Cover
  • A herd of cattle
  • A pride of lions
  • A plague of locusts
  • A litter of kittens.


But it also includes wonderful, little known terms such as

  • A leap of leopards
  • A skulk of foxes
  • A knot of toads
  • A parliament of owls


The author, James Lipton, professed to have great fun coining new terms for some of these groupings himself and encouraged his readers to join in the fun too.  He advises ‘players’ to keep the following in mind:

  • A simple play on words usually detracts from rather than adds to the energy of a term
  • Alliteration is not necessary and can even seem stilted or forced
  • The success of the expression works best wihen it hones in on the quintessential essence of the group, allowing it to represent the whole – for instance a blur of impressionists or a blessing of nuns


So I decided to play along, with a somewhat western focus, and this is what I came up with:

  • A feist of cowgirls
  • A stoic of cowboys
  • A quell of schoolmarms
  • A sashay of saloon girls
  • A quiver of dragonflies
  • A clump of boots
  • A startle of minnows
  • A posy of debutants
  • A pretend of jackalopes
  • A giggle of schoolgirls
  • A slingshot of schoolboys
  • A squirm of babies
  • A twinkle of fireflies
  • A battery of bullies
  • A priss of spinsters
  • A glib of peddlers
  • A menace of bulls


So, how did I do?  And do you have some ideas of your own to add to the list?

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at or email her at

24 thoughts on “The Name Game, Collectively Speaking”

  1. Winnie, this is fabulous. I think I’ve heard of a “murder of crows” which I don’t get…my favorites so far are “a squirm of babies” and a “twinkle of fireflies.” Thanks for some great images. oxoxo

  2. Winnie,
    What fun. I like your selections. Some great additions. I love the quill of authors.

    a swagger of lawmen
    a draw of gunfighters

  3. Tanya – I agree, a murder of crows is one of those puzzlers, but a delightfully evocative term nonetheless, don’t you think

    Patricia – ooooh a swagger of lawmen is so on the nose!

    Margaret – yes indeed, you need to thumb through it some time when you can really relish the entries

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