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.
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.
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 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 it gains popularity in lists of collective nouns.
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13 responses to “Collective Nouns for People”

  1. LK says:

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

  2. Jofrey Alex says:

    I enjoyed it, good work

  3. 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?
    Thanks.

    • 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

  4. roy bullock says:

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

    • 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.

  5. 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

    • 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?

  6. Alya says:

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

    • 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.

  7. Dan says:

    I’d like to nominate: a swindle of lawyers

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