collective nouns for people

Collective Nouns for People

List of  Collective Nouns for People & Professions

This list of collective nouns for people (also called collective terms and terms of venery) can never be definitive but it’s fun. A “collective noun” refers to “plural-only” words, e.g. people for person. The first list of collective nouns was published in “The Book of St Albans” circa 1500 and it wasn’t definitive – it was based on folklore, humor and the whim of the publisher and it’s the same today! Here’s an impressive list of collective nouns.

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Human Group Singular Collective Nouns for People Collective term Explanation & Etymology
Artists Artist a troupe of artists troupe From French “troupe’ meaning “company’ or “troop” referring to a band of artists including actors, performers, dancers and so on.
Butlers Butler a draught of butlers draught A butler’s duties include looking after wines and liquor stored in the “buttery” (a room) by taking regular draughts to test for taste and quality.
Crooks Crook a bunch of crooks bunch A crook is a bent “crooked” hook. Originally used to describe criminal activity it’s now commonly applied to politicians, corporations and governments worldwide.
Directors Director a board of directors board The board is the “table where council is held” by the “directors” (guides) from French “directeur” and earlier Latin “dirigere”.
Employees Employee a staff of employees staff Commonly used for office and hospital staff, possibly derived from a staff (baton) used as a badge of office or authority or using a staff as a support.
Experts Expert a panel of experts panel From French “panel” and earlier Latin “pannellus” (piece of cloth) which became legalese term for “piece of parchment listing jurors” leading to the general sense of people called on to discuss, advise and judge.
Guests Guest a cohort of guests cohort Used in tourism reports, business reports and in legal documents.
Husbands Husband an unhappiness of husbands
unhappiness If you have any positive collective noun for husbands or relationships in general please share them!
Jurors Jury a damning of jurors damning The right to a trial by jury was included in the Magna Carta signed by King John in 1215. A plaintiff found guilty was a “damning” verdict, from the Latin word “damnāre” to condemn which left the plaintiff liable to eternal damnation.
Listeners Listener an audience of listeners audience Originally a gathering of people within hearing range. Derived from French “audience” (the action of hearing) and earlier Latin “audentia” (a hearing, listening) and has since been extended to include book readers, radio and TV show audiences.
Musicians Musician a band of musicians band Bands of cloth are worn as a mark of identification by organized groups, typically solders. Groups of musicians were originally attached to army regiments.
Nuns Nun a superfluity of nuns superfluity English nunneries were overcrowded as nobles offloaded their daughters past marriageable age and there was pressure for church reform. During the Protestant reformation Henry VIII ordered the closure of convents and monasteries.
Painters Painter a misbelief of painters misbelief Used specifically to describe portrait painters who had to strike a balance between flattering their patrons and painting a realistic portrait – which could easily be extended to a misbelief of Photoshop users today! It was the artists ability to create an illusion of beauty which led to misbelief in those viewing the portrait.
Pardoners Priest or Friar a lying of pardoners lying “Pardoners” claimed to cleanse people of their sins offering absolution for a fee. Fraudsters led to charges of “lying pardoners” in City of London records.
People Person a crowd of people crowd People from French “peupel” (people, population, crowd; mankind, humanity) and earlier Latin populus (a multitude, crowd, throng) gathering together.
Policemen Policeman a posse of policemen posse Presumably from sherrifs, posse can be applied to any group of people with a common occupation or characteristic.
Policemen Policeman a squad of police officers squad Squad is also commonly applied to soldiers
Professors Professor in the professoriate professoriate Collective term for a group of academic professors, typically in universities.
Sailors Sailor a crew of sailors sailors From French “crue” (group of soldiers) through “gang of men on a warship” to “people acting or working together” not just on warships.
Sheriffs Sherrif a posse of sheriffs posse From the wild west days “a body of men summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law”.
Singers Singer a choir of singers choir From Latin “choir” (band of singers).
Soldiers Soldier an army of soldiers army From French “armée” (armed troop) and earlier Latin “armata” (armed force) originally used for sea and land expeditons the term is now applies specifically to land forces.
Soldiers Soldier a regiment of soldiers regiment Units organized systematically by being “regimented’ from the old French “regiment” (government, rule) and earlier Latin “regimentum” and “regere (to rule).
Soldiers Soldier a platoon of soldiers platoon One of many collective terms applied to servicemen and servicewomen including company, division, unit etc. Platoon is from the French “peloton”, a small ball.
Soldiers Soldier a squad of soldiers squad A squad is a also a popular collective term for policemen.
Soldiers Soldier a troop of soldiers troop Also used in the scouting movement, e.g. a scout troop. From the French troupe or Germanic/Frankish origin “thorp” for an assembly or gathering.
Students Student a cohort of students cohort “Student cohort” is commonly used in educational circles when referring to a year group. See also a “class” of students.
Pupils Pupil a class of pupils class Groups of students are often described as pupils and could also be described as a cohort of pupils.
Tapsters Tapster a promise of tapsters promise A “tapster” is an outdated term for a barman/barmaid (who looks after the “taps”) and their promise with a nod, eye contact or other acknowledgement that you’re next to be served – which may well turn out to be a false promise! Shakespeare’s Celia and Rosalind in As You Like It reflect on this “… the oath of a lover is no stronger than the word of a tapster.”
Teachers Teacher a faculty of teachers faculty Educational institutions are often divided into faculties and teachers are faculty members.
Tourists Tourist a flock of tourists flock From Old English “flocc” (crowd).
Visitors Visitor a cohort of visitors cohort Used in business reports and in legal documents.
Wives Wife an impatience of wives
impatience For some reason collective nouns for partners are generally negative!

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Who Decides Collective Nouns for People?

There’s no official collective nouns committee, or authority, which approves new collective nouns. There’s nothing to stop you, us, or anyone else, coming up with new collective nouns and seeing if they gain popularity in lists of collective nouns.

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30 responses to “Collective Nouns for People”

  1. JC says:

    Hi Brenda, we found a couple of references to collective nouns for reflexologists including “rub of relexologists” and “foot of reflexologists” but maybe the more generic concord of reflexologists is better. Our best idea so far is a harmony of reflexologists but it’s not great.

  2. Brenda Oxlee says:

    I ran a competition for the best collective noun for a group of reflexologists and the winner was a manipulation of reflexologists. Any better ideas?

  3. JC says:

    Hi Christine, we’ve found loads of references to collective nouns for lawyers (and attorneys). On a practical level more than one lawyer is likely to be part of a law firm. When working together they can be referred to as a law group. More descriptive and entertaining terms we found include a quarrel of lawyers, an eloquence of lawyers and an excess of lawyers.

  4. Christine Humphrey says:

    Did you have a collective for lawyer? Thanks

  5. JC says:

    There’s a reference to “a fall of thatchers” which we like, why do you ask?

  6. Michael Loveday says:

    What is the collective noun for a group of thatchers?

  7. Rob Beam says:

    My son once proposed a “prayer” of priests…

  8. JC says:

    Haha! That’s a great collective noun.

  9. Innes Fraser says:

    I was in class earlier this morning and we decided that the most fitting collective noun for politicians was a Tantrum.

  10. JC says:

    Other possibilities include an argument, confusion, argument, expense, squabble or logically “a quantity of quantity surveyors”

  11. JC says:

    Or an ineffectuality, scold or clusterf*ck of project managers!

  12. JC says:

    Thanks Phil, it seems there’s no consensus about the collective noun for architects. With references to “a condescension of architects”, an argument of architects”, pretension, conceit, jealousy, arrogance, overhead and my favourite “an impasse of architects”. Take your pick.

  13. Phill Bridger says:

    or maybe an ‘armada’of architects ???

  14. Phill Bridger says:

    Or maybe a ‘superfluity’ of project managers

  15. Phill Bridger says:

    I believe a group of quantity surveyors should be called a ‘terror’

  16. JC says:

    Thanks for your comment. We’ve added “a class of scholars” to the main list. Research indicates “a bevy of ladies” has been used frequently. We liked a reference to “a scoop of journalists” and found a bunch of references to “bench of judges” and “sentence of judges” so take your pick. There’s “a suite of furniture” and our Collective nouns for animals list includes collective nouns for pigs variations on “a drift of pigs” and “a drove of pigs”.

  17. Boscehdey says:

    Hi. What are the collective nouns for scholars, ladies, journalist, judges, furniture and pigs?

  18. Dan says:

    I’d like to nominate: a swindle of lawyers

  19. JC says:

    Hi Alya, good questions, the most popular collective terms seem to be “a squad of policemen” or maybe “a posse of policemen, but this seems more directly related to Sheriffs in the wild west. Like students, teachers can also be part of a cohort but more commonly teachers are members of a faculty. We’ve updated the list, thanks for your input.

  20. Alya says:

    Hi! Do you know of a collective for “policemen” and “teachers”

  21. JC says:

    Hi Georgia, I see Katie Hopkins is proposing “moob” and I saw mention of “suckling” but my favorite so far is a “lactation of breastfeeders”. What do you think?

  22. Georgia says:

    I’m dong an ergonomic chair design for breastfeeders and I want to know if there is a collective noun for a group of breastfeeders

  23. JC says:

    Hi Roy, thanks for your comment. There are thousands of google search results for “cohort of guests” and “cohort of visitors” so they’re in common useage and I’ve added them to the list. “Cohort” is commonly used to describe any group of people which share common characteristics so it is likely to be used as a collective noun for other groups of people.

  24. roy bullock says:

    Very interesting, but do you know of a collective for “guests” or “visitors”?

  25. JC says:

    Hi Liza, you could certainly use a “school of pupils” but I can’t find any obvious reference to its use as a collective term. Maybe a “cohort of pupils” would be better – there are a few references for that. “A cohort of students” is widely used – I will add that to the list

  26. Liza Harun says:

    Hi. I would like to know whether we can use a school of pupils as a collective noun?
    Or it’s should always be a class of pupils only?
    How about a group of pupils or a hall of pupils?

  27. Jofrey Alex says:

    I enjoyed it, good work

  28. JC says:

    Thanks LK – we’ve added Troop to the main list.

  29. LK says:

    Troop? Troop of Scouts or Soldiers? Enjoyed your list-thank you!

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