A leap of leopards, a flamboyance of flamingos, a barrel of monkeys, a murmuration of starlings: Collective nouns for animals are fun and full of personality and information, but how did these descriptions come about? Minute Earth explains in Why Is A Group Of Crows Called A “Murder”?
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The tradition of using “terms of venery” or “nouns of assembly”, collective nouns that are specific to certain kinds of animals, stems from an English hunting tradition of the Late Middle Ages. The fashion of a consciously developed hunting language came to England from France. It was marked by an extensive proliferation of specialist vocabulary, applying different names to the same feature in different animals. The elements can be shown to have already been part of French and English hunting terminology by the beginning of the 14th century. In the course of the 14th century, it became a courtly fashion to extend the vocabulary, and by the 15th century, the tendency had reached exaggerated proportions.