bric-a-brac english

Animal Groupings

In VOCABULARY on April 13, 2013 at 8:33 am

Cattle, birds, wolves, sheep… Animals are often found in groups, and English uses different words for different animal groupings. Many of them have interesting figurative uses as well. Here are some of them:

flight
a group of birds (or aircraft) flying togethera flight of geese/swans

flock
sheep, goats, birds (and people – a flock of tourists)

  • a Christian congregation or group of believers is often referred to as a flock (their pastor/vicar/bishop, etc. being their shepherd).
  • [verb] To move or come together in large numbers
    Hundreds of people flocked to the football match.

herd
a large group of animals that live and feed together
a herd of elephants/cattle/goats

  • when used of people, it normally has a negative meaning:
    to follow the herd (to do sth just because other people do it)
    herd instinct (when people act like everyone else without considering the reason why)

litter
group of animals born together
a litter of kittens

pack
dogs, wolves; also, disapprovingly, people (a pack of thieves)

school
fish & sea animals

swarm
insects; a large group of people moving together
(also, verb: to move together in a large group)

Flock, drove, herd, pack refer to a company of animals, often under the care or guidance of someone.
Flock is the popular term, which applies to groups of animals, especially of sheep or goats, and companies of birds:
This lamb is the choicest of the flock.
A flock of wild geese flew overhead.
Drove is especially applied to a number of oxen, sheep, or swine when driven in a group:
A drove of oxen was taken to market.
A large drove of swine filled the roadway.
Herd is usually applied to large animals such as cattle, originally meaning those under the charge of someone; but by extension, to other animals feeding or driven together:
a buffalo herd; a herd of elephants.
Pack applies to a number of animals kept together or keeping together for offense or defense:
a pack of hounds kept for hunting; a pack of wolves.
As applied to people,
drove, herd and pack have a negative meaning.

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