Over 500 years ago, Dame Juliana Berners, a noblewoman and the prioress of the Sopwell Nunnery in England, published a collection of advice on fishing, hawking, hunting and heraldry. Named the “Book of St. Albans,” this curious volume also contained a trove of strange and humorous descriptions of noun groups. Some of these collective nouns attained widespread acceptance such as a “flight of stairs” and a “school of fish.” Over time, additional terms caught on while some remained a joke or were rarely used, e.g. a “nutcluster of dugongs” or “host of angelfish.” One of our favorites appears in the title to this article — a smack of jellyfish.
Referring to the animal’s behavior or the poetic images conjured from the humans observing them, the list below of nine marine-based collective nouns remains enchantingly fanciful (and more or less officially sanctioned). So, next time you’re on a dive boat, surprise and impress your buddies by referring to the animals you see with the below terms.
- A battery of barracuda
- A party of rainbow fish
- A glide or squadron of flying fish
- A fluther or smack of jellyfish
- A turmoil of porpoises (far more delightful than the common alliteration, “pod of porpoises”)
Video by ScubaLuis.com
- A fever of stingrays (which includes any of the stingray family, such as eagle rays and butterfly rays)
- A risk of lobsters
- A flotilla of swordfish
- A shiver or slew of sharks (more bloodcurdling than the ordinary “school of sharks”)
Often used interchangeably, a “shoal of fish” and a “school of fish” represent distinct activities. A shoal of fish congregates together socially to benefit from safety in numbers, but each does as it pleases. A school of fish coordinates their behavior and maneuvers as one, such as when they swim tightly together or rapidly alter direction in unison.