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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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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- Spotted a mistake or do you have a suggestion to improve our list of collective nouns for people? Please add your comments below…