From a rash of dermatologists to a babble of barbers, a damning of jurors and a goring of butchers, we select our favourite collective nouns for people and professions

Although they’ve been common parlance since the Middle Ages, the meaning of many collective nouns for people or professions are not always as obvious as they might first appear.

For instance, many may assume that a ‘fighting of beggars’ comes from indecorous fighting in the street over scraps of food or coins. However, it seems it could have derived from ‘a fyting’—in Middle English, a ‘fyton’ meant someone who was mendacious or a liar—which indicates the term sprang from the penchant of beggars to tell tales in the hope of being given handouts.

A Psalter of Popes

A Psalter of Popes

Similarly, I wrongly deduced that ‘a draught of butlers’ had sprung from the fact that these diligent house servants often facilitated their aristocratic masters’ every whim in vast, ill-insulated country houses. However, it seems that the collective noun for butlers, so-called because their main duty was to oversee the ‘buttery’, where the wines were stored, actually comes from Jeeves’s—or, indeed, Downton Abbey’s Carson’s—need to regularly taste draughts of white and red in order to check their quality and taste, which must surely be one of the best perks of the job, even to this day.

A Sentence of Judges

A Sentence of Judges

For more about the history of collective nouns, refer to ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’ by Chloe Rhodes (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, £9.99)

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A Goring of Butchers

Some of our favourite collective nouns for people and professions…

An incredulity of cuckolds
A troupe of acrobats
A cowardice of curs
A cast, a company, a condescension, a cry
or a queue of actors
A troupe, a flight (male) or a float (female)
of dancers
An entrance of actresses
A squat of daubers
A decanter or a decorum of deans
A conflagration of arsonists
A tantrum of decorators
An amalgam, a brace or a wince of dentists
A rash of dermatologists
A tabernacle of bakers
A set or a subtlety of designers
A babble of barbers
A promise of barmen
A doctrine of doctors
A thought of barons
An obstruction of dons
A boast or a wiggery of barristers
An asylum, a fagot or a roll of drummers
A shower of bastards
A pound of Englishmen
A prance of equestrians
A fighting of beggars
A discord or a panel of experts
A bench, a psalter or a sea of bishops
A plush or a rascal of boys
A drift, an exaggeration, a grumble or a sulk
of fishermen
A stalk of foresters
A feast of brewers
A peck of Frenchmen
A shuffle of bureaucrats
A goring of butchers
A talent of gamblers
A draught or a sneer of butlers
A glitter of generals
A slate of candidates
A helix of geneticists
A chapter or a dignity of canons
A conglomerate or a formation of geologists
A company or a syndicate of capitalists
A plane of geometrists
A college of cardinals
A giggle of girls
A gaggle of censors
A lie or a tedium of golfers
A board or a brood of chess players
A slither of gossip columnists
A rookery or a school of clerks
A galaxy of governesses
An alley or a pratfall of clowns
A fortitude of graduate students
A cutting or a drunkship of cobblers
A conjunction of grammarians
A gaggle or a riot of comedians
A nag or a wisdom of grandparents
A colhose of communists
A grope of groupies
A hastiness of cooks
A shrivel of critics
A smear of gynaecologists
A set or a swish of hairdressers
An illusion of magicians
A herd of harlots
A melody of harpists
A rage of maidens
A debauchery of hedonists
A number or a set of mathematicians
An expectation of heirs
A riches of matrons
An observance of hermits
A morbidity of majors
A trip of hippies
A density of meatheads
A clutch or a torque of mechanics
A diligence of messengers
A laughter of hostellers
An amalgamation of metallurgists
A shower of meteorologists
A colony of microbiologists
An expectation of midwives
A slouch of models
A consternation of mothers
A mutter of mothers-in-law
A mug or a reflection of narcissists
A multiply or an unhappiness of husbands
A blur of Impressionists
An imposition of in-laws
A squeal of nieces
A tongue-lashing of interpreters
A freeze of Northerners
A pint of Irishmen
A convent, a murmur, a flap, a superfluity
or a prey of nuns
A wheeze of joggers
A mess or an execution of officers
A scoop or a slant of journalists
A sentence of judges
A neverthriving of jugglers
A brace or a cast of orthopaedists
A damning of jurors
A joint of osteopaths
A banner or a rout of knights
A curse, an illusion or a misbelief of painters
A disputation, an eloquence, an escheat, a greed, a huddle or a quarrel of lawyers
An embarrassment or a persistence of parents
A drift of lecturers
A body of pathologists
A malapertness of pedlars
A catalogue, a stack or a shush of librarians
A meter of percussionists
A confusion or a ponder of philosophers
A billow or a hack of smokers
A flood or a flush of plumbers
A disguising or a proud showing of tailors
An iamb, an obscurity or a rhyme of poets
A promise of tapsters
A quiz of teachers
A lie, an equivocation or an odium of politicians
A glozing of taverners
A converting, a lechery or a mass of preachers
An attitude or a grunt of teenagers
A discretion of priests
A den, a gang or a skulk of thieves
A gang or a pity of prisoners
A wandering of tinkers
A pomposity of professors
A graft of tree surgeons
An unction of undertakers
A complex of psychologists
A sprig of vegetarians
A twaddle of public speakers
A prudence of vicars
A blaze or a conflagration of pyromaniacs
An absence, an indifference or an order of waiters
A series of radiologists
An amble of walkers
A flight of refugees
A pan of reviewers
An ambush of widows
A mêlée of rioters
A coven of witches
An impatience of wives
A sample of salesmen
A rout of schoolboys
A clutch or a crunch of wrestlers
A scolding of seamstresses
A worship of writers
An obeisance of servants
A sodom of shepherds
A posse of sheriffs
A blackening of shoemakers
A crush of shoppers

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