Thursday, May 15, 2008

Terms of Venery

The study of (and playing with) words is quite fun, if one would consider it. I remember in particular, one game I had fun playing was called Balderdash. The fun part of the game is in inventing phony definitions of almost unknown but real words and bluffing other players into taking that definition to be true.

One particular area I have been interested in is in the English terms for different groups of animals. The term used to define groups of objects is called a collective noun. But when collective noun is referred specifically to groups of animals, it is called terms of venery. Venery is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the art, act, or practice of hunting.”

Venery comes from the Latin venari, where I would guess we got the word venison. Interestingly enough, the word venereal, which comes from the Latin from Latin venereus means something differently. I don’t know if the word vino which means wine would have any relation to its word origin as well. So there must be a possibility that in one way or another, the venison you eat, the wine that you drink and the disease you may acquire after much intoxication seems plausibly related in origin. But that is a different story altogether.

In terms of venery, a group of dogs is not just simply termed so, but is called either a kennel of dogs or a pack of dogs. Although pack is more popularly referred to a group of wolves. Amusingly, a group of baboons (or of old white men) is called a congress. A group of ants is called either an army or colony, perhaps because most of them are either soldiers or workers? The most popular are terms such as school of fish, flock of pigeons, pride of lions. But what i found most interesting are terms such as bloat of hippopotami, convocation of eagles, murder of crows, parliament of owls, crash of rhinoceri.

For a longer list of terms of venery, check out the site Fun with Words at or Ojohaven's Collective Noun page at

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