A group of humans is called a...
May 17, 2012 8:03 PM   Subscribe

A group of wolves is called a pack. A group of cattle is a herd. A group of crows is called a murder. A group of humans is called a ________? Is there a specific, academic term for this?

This question came up during a conversation with my wife and her sister while packing for our move to Tennessee. Some research led me to this, which has some interesting answers, but is too specific to a type of human, as opposed to a group of general humans.

I've tried looking up (read: google) terms that sociologists or historians would use, but I haven't found anything that is a definitive answer. So is there a specific, academic term for a group of humans?
posted by Groundhog Week to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by spaltavian at 8:05 PM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

posted by calgirl at 8:07 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Family, band, community, nation, city, town, crowd, party... I think the issue is that we have *lots* of words for groups of humans. Even if you just say "a group" without additional context, most people will mentally default to the assumption that you mean a group of people.
posted by Scientist at 8:11 PM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think it depends on the context. Tribe certainly works when there are familial or political affiliations, but not when there aren't. Crowd works when there is a certain, undefined number of humans in a single place, but not when there are, say, four. "Group" is the word that seems most generic, as it can apply to three or more people in any setting, without needing additional criteria to be true.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:12 PM on May 17, 2012

population? cohort?
posted by unknowncommand at 8:12 PM on May 17, 2012

A group of wolves is called a pack. A group of cattle is a herd. A group of crows is called a murder.

All of these are terms of venery describing animals that were hunted or eaten.

As humans are not usually hunted or eaten, I see no reason why why group would not do as a general term to describe humans who may or may not be affiliated by agreement or familial connections or any other specific qualification.
posted by y2karl at 8:17 PM on May 17, 2012 [43 favorites]

No, there's no equivalent for humans.
posted by Dasein at 8:18 PM on May 17, 2012

The terms vary according to WHY are the humans together.
posted by Tom-B at 8:22 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you, y2karl.
posted by Groundhog Week at 8:25 PM on May 17, 2012

posted by Golden Eternity at 8:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's another list here, but it also doesn't help with groups of humans.
posted by patrick54 at 1:16 AM on May 18, 2012

I had never heard of y2karl's terms of venery before. According to wikipedia, it looks like that's simply a subset of the more generic collective nouns. And the collective noun for "people", as calgirl points out, is "crowd", although it's more common to find collective nouns for specific groups of people (a bench of bishops, an eloquence of lawyers etc).
posted by londonmark at 1:48 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

according to this odd book on the subject of by James Lipton, there's even a name for a group of models: a "Slouch."
posted by garfy3 at 3:31 AM on May 18, 2012

A committee.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:02 AM on May 18, 2012

posted by Max Power at 8:49 AM on May 18, 2012

Aboriginal Australians sometimes use the word mob for a group of people, which kind of covers everything from family to tribe to the people I hang out with to an actual mob. It's a very flexible word.
posted by wwax at 9:14 AM on May 18, 2012

It very much depends on why we are grouping. You have teams of cricketers, classes of students, wards of patients, battalions of soldiers, wings of airmen. It depends entirely what we're doing.
posted by Jilder at 10:41 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

sometimes "cohort" is used, in a different kind of context. I like "mob," but fear it has rather unfortunate associations.
posted by acm at 11:09 AM on May 18, 2012

The anthropologist David Plath called this a convoy: the group of individuals that surround you and move through life with you together. A convoy is described as being like a cocoon, protecting you throughout your lifespan. Other researchers have expanded the term so that it includes family, friends, acquaintances, a community, or society at large.

To me, the concept of convoy seems to be closest to the other collective nouns you've described.
posted by k8lin at 2:23 PM on May 18, 2012

Convoy is a more specific, rather than general, collective noun describing a group moving in the same direction in a line or close formation, which, in common usage, refers more often to machines such as trucks or ships than humans.
posted by y2karl at 12:00 PM on May 19, 2012

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