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 GroupSingularCollective Nouns for PeopleCollective termExplanation & Etymology
ArtistsArtista troupe of artiststroupeFrom French “troupe’ meaning “company’ or “troop” referring to a band of artists including actors, performers, dancers and so on.
ButlersButlera draught of butlersdraughtA 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.
CrooksCrooka bunch of crooksbunchA crook is a bent “crooked” hook. Originally used to describe criminal activity it’s now commonly applied to politicians, corporations and governments worldwide.
DirectorsDirectora board of directorsboardThe board is the “table where council is held” by the “directors” (guides) from French “directeur” and earlier Latin “dirigere”.
EmployeesEmployeea staff of employeesstaffCommonly 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.
ExpertsExperta panel of expertspanelFrom 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.
GuestsGuesta cohort of guestscohortUsed in tourism reports, business reports and in legal documents.
HusbandsHusbandan unhappiness of husbands
unhappinessIf you have any positive collective noun for husbands or relationships in general please share them!
JurorsJurya damning of jurorsdamningThe 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.
ListenersListeneran audience of listenersaudienceOriginally 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.
MusiciansMusiciana band of musiciansbandBands of cloth are worn as a mark of identification by organized groups, typically solders. Groups of musicians were originally attached to army regiments.
NunsNuna superfluity of nunssuperfluityEnglish 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.
PaintersPaintera misbelief of paintersmisbeliefUsed 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.
PardonersPriest or Friara lying of pardonerslying“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.
PeoplePersona crowd of peoplecrowdPeople from French “peupel” (people, population, crowd; mankind, humanity) and earlier Latin populus (a multitude, crowd, throng) gathering together.
PolicemenPolicemana posse of policemenpossePresumably from sherrifs, posse can be applied to any group of people with a common occupation or characteristic.
PolicemenPolicemana squad of police officerssquadSquad is also commonly applied to soldiers
ProfessorsProfessorin the professoriateprofessoriateCollective term for a group of academic professors, typically in universities.
SailorsSailora crew of sailorssailorsFrom French “crue” (group of soldiers) through “gang of men on a warship” to “people acting or working together” not just on warships.
SheriffsSherrifa posse of sheriffsposseFrom the wild west days “a body of men summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law”.
SingersSingera choir of singerschoirFrom Latin “choir” (band of singers).
SoldiersSoldieran army of soldiersarmyFrom French “armée” (armed troop) and earlier Latin “armata” (armed force) originally used for sea and land expeditions the term is now applies specifically to land forces.
SoldiersSoldiera regiment of soldiersregimentUnits organized systematically by being “regimented’ from the old French “regiment” (government, rule) and earlier Latin “regimentum” and “regere (to rule).
SoldiersSoldiera platoon of soldiersplatoonOne of many collective terms applied to servicemen and servicewomen including company, division, unit etc. Platoon is from the French “peloton”, a small ball.
SoldiersSoldiera squad of soldierssquadA squad is a also a popular collective term for policemen.
SoldiersSoldiera troop of soldierstroopAlso used in the scouting movement, e.g. a scout troop. From the French troupe or Germanic/Frankish origin “thorp” for an assembly or gathering.
StudentsStudenta cohort of studentscohort“Student cohort” is commonly used in educational circles when referring to a year group. See also a “class” of students.
PupilsPupila class of pupilsclassGroups of students are often described as pupils and could also be described as a cohort of pupils.
TapstersTapstera promise of tapsterspromiseA “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.”
TeachersTeachera faculty of teachersfacultyEducational institutions are often divided into faculties and teachers are faculty members.
TouristsTourista flock of touristsflockFrom Old English “flocc” (crowd).
VisitorsVisitora cohort of visitorscohortUsed in business reports and in legal documents.
WivesWifean impatience of wives
impatienceFor 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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31 responses to “Collective Nouns for People”

  1. Marlow White says:

    A scold of nurses and a ponder of physicians.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. Christine Humphrey says:

    Did you have a collective for lawyer? Thanks

  6. JC says:

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

  7. Michael Loveday says:

    What is the collective noun for a group of thatchers?

  8. Rob Beam says:

    My son once proposed a “prayer” of priests…

  9. JC says:

    Haha! That’s a great collective noun.

  10. Innes Fraser says:

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

  11. JC says:

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

  12. JC says:

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

  13. 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.

  14. Phill Bridger says:

    or maybe an ‘armada’of architects ???

  15. Phill Bridger says:

    Or maybe a ‘superfluity’ of project managers

  16. Phill Bridger says:

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

  17. 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”.

  18. Boscehdey says:

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

  19. Dan says:

    I’d like to nominate: a swindle of lawyers

  20. 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.

  21. Alya says:

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

  22. 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?

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. roy bullock says:

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

  26. 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

  27. 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?

  28. Jofrey Alex says:

    I enjoyed it, good work

  29. JC says:

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

  30. LK says:

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

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