Category Archives: education

A Great App for Memorizing Vocabulary: Anki

If you’re one of the many people trying to learn a new language, you know how difficult it is to remember a bunch of vocabulary words. There are tons of different apps and methods out there for learning new vocabulary, but the most useful and practical memorization tool I’ve ever used is Anki.

What is Anki?

Anki is a powerful flashcard app designed to help you memorize just about anything. It can be used to make flashcards for learning a language, memorizing terms for a science test, or remembering mathematical formulae. Anki is packed with features and options that can be optimized to fit any preference or study schedule.

There are tons of different apps and methods out there for learning new vocabulary, but the most useful and practical memorization tool I’ve ever used is Anki.

One of Anki’s best features is that it can be synchronized across devices. With apps available for any computer or mobile device, you can start studying flash cards on your computer at home and pick up right where you left off any time you have a few spare minutes throughout the day with your phone. This article is not meant to be a full walkthrough of Anki’s capabilities, but you can visit Anki’s website to read about more details and amazing features.

How Anki Works

Anki is designed to help you memorize terms by spaced repetition. Each time Anki shows you a flashcard, it asks you how difficult it was. The easier the card was to remember, the longer Anki will wait to show you the card again in the future. The more difficult the card was to remember, the sooner Anki will bring it up for review again.

the Anki flashcard difficulty scale
The easier a card is to remember, the longer Anki will wait to review it again. The more difficult a card is to remember, the sooner Anki will review it again.

You can change Anki’s settings to review cards more or less often if you like, but the default settings have always worked great in my experience. If you forget a term, you can always tell Anki to review it again when it asks how difficult it was. You can always count on Anki to review each card again eventually, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling reviews or forgetting terms that you learned in the past.

But I already use Quizlet!

Already made a bunch of flashcards on Quizlet? Quizlet is great too, but it doesn’t have all the options and features that Anki has. If you want to switch from Quizlet to Anki or use your flashcards on both, you can easily move flashcards to Anki without making them all over again. Simply export flashcard decks from Quizlet and import them to a new Anki deck!

Exporting a deck from Quizlet and importing the file to Anki.
Export flashcards from Quizlet (left), and import them to make a new deck in Anki (right).

How I Use Quizlet for Vocabulary

I like to keep things simple, so I put all of my vocabulary flashcards in one big deck for each language. As I study and come across new words and phrases that I want to remember, I add them to the deck. Since Anki reviews cards by spaced repetition, not by topic or deck, it doesn’t matter if you have one deck or twenty. All the cards that need to be reviewed each day are due on that day, no matter what deck they are in or how you prefer to categorize them.

A tactic I employ to ensure thorough memorization of vocabulary is creating two versions of each card. For example, when I add flashcards to my Korean deck, I create an English-Korean card and a Korean-English card. Sometimes I can easily remember the English translation of a Korean word, but I struggle to remember the Korean translation of an English word. By creating two versions of each flashcard, I ensure that I can more easily bring to mind each word that I learn in either language.

Since both versions of each flashcard are already in the same big deck, Anki will review each word both ways each time it comes up. However, if you wish to keep both versions of a card together in a deck, you must create them back-to-back and use the default “Show new cards in order added” option rather than the “Show new cards in random order” option. Otherwise, the two cards will be randomly shuffled into the deck and will likely end up being reviewed separately days or weeks apart from each other. Don’t forget to sync your account when you add new cards or finish a study session!

Finally, try not to skip a review day with Anki. If you have a few small decks, catching up the next day might be easy, but when you have multiple decks and hundreds or thousands of flashcards, missing a day can really cause things to pile up! If you find that you have too many flashcards to review in one day, you can change the “Maximum reviews/day” setting in the “Reviews” tab of the options menu.

Download Anki


As you’ll see for yourself, Anki is a powerful app with tons of great options and features. There is so much more that could be said about Anki, but exploring all of its options and features would take us far beyond the scope of this post. I hope you’ll find Anki as helpful as I have on your own educational journey. Do you use Anki or any other study apps? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments!

a stack of old books

The Real Shortcut to Learning

At some point most of us find ourselves needing or wanting to learn another language. Thankfully, we live in a world with a surplus of available information. There are countless free and paid learning resources available. We have apps, books, online courses, and everything in between that promise to teach us just about any language we could possibly want to learn. And all of these learning methods promise to teach us more effectively than all the others. Language courses claim to have the latest and greatest instructional methods that guarantee the fastest and easiest way to become fluent.

Sadly, as we can often instinctively tell, most claims of fast and easy fluency are exaggerations at best and sometimes flat-out lies. Many of us are all too familiar with the falsehood of such claims. We’ve signed up for a subscription for some app that promised us the easiest way to fluency or bought a phrasebook that promised to teach all the essential vocabulary we’d need to speak like a native and found out the hard way that such short cuts don’t work. We’ve seen the advertisements and infomercials about language courses that immerse us in a new language so that we can have fun learning naturally without having to study grammar or memorize vocabulary and ended up bored or frustrated.

If you’ve looked into learning a new language, or really anything else, at all, you’ve probably noticed the trend learning systems are following. They’re promising that learning will be easy and fun. We’ve been indoctrinated with the fallacious idea that education is supposed to be entertaining since we were toddlers watching Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, and developers are using the false doctrine of entertaining education to make a profit. This doctrine is so pervasive that many of even the most conservative and traditional educators promote the idea that learning should be as fun as they can make it.

Replacing real education with cleverly disguised entertainment breeds ignorance and frustration. Having all grown up under the delusion that we need to be constantly entertained, we’ve shortened our attention spans and weakened our ability to sit still and pay attention to something that is not meant to be entertaining. We are shocked at the idea that people living before the subtle takeover of entertainment culture could willingly sit and listen to speeches, lectures, and sermons for hours at a time and read books for pleasure. Now it’s hard enough to find an adult, let alone a child, who could sit alone in a room with his own thoughts for an hour or two without desperately craving some kind of entertainment or media to consume.

In addition to making everything entertaining, language educators are also claiming that they can make learning easy, especially by eliminating the study of grammar. Grammar is often presented as some terrible monster of a subject that no one in their right mind would approach. Many people growing up in the public school system don’t even learn much grammar anymore if they learn any at all. When people are ignorant and fearful of the grammar of their own language, mastering the grammar of a foreign language seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Language instructors then design apps and curriculums that attempt to teach languages with as few technical grammar points as possible.

Language learning techniques that claim to be easy and entertaining sound great. Everyone wants to achieve maximum results with minimal effort, so most of the popular language learning tools and apps strive to provide easy and entertaining courses without dry or difficult material like grammar. Entertainment sells. When consumers get bored with an app, they end their subscription and uninstall it. When learning a language gets dry and difficult, we often become frustrated and discouraged. We lose our steam and want to quit and find something better. And without the motivation of a serious financial investment in a real language class and a report card to keep us committed to our studies, it’s all too easy to cut our loss of a few dollars and move on to something else. In the end, we don’t end up learning much of anything.

We could blame the developers of “easy” and “fun” language learning systems for making exaggerated and inaccurate claims about their grossly inadequate curriculums, but the truth is that they only produce the products that consumers want. They’re only making what sells. The reason educators are producing lazy curriculums is that we the consumers are lazy. Businesses sell what consumers want, and what consumers want is to be entertained. We have lost the discipline and mental fortitude required to make real progress.

Most of us would readily admit that great thinkers and leaders of the past were much more intelligent than we are today. We wouldn’t dare compare ourselves to historical figures like Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Sun Tzu, or Alexander Hamilton. But did any of these men become highly intelligent and successful by learning through entertainment? Absolutely not. Benjamin Franklin did not learn French by subscribing to an app. Napoleon did not become a great strategist with brain teasers and puzzles. King Solomon did not become wise by watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Great thinkers of the past learned by putting in significant effort. They studied. They wrote. They practiced. They memorized. They read all the books they could get their hands on. They weren’t expecting to be entertained. They realized the importance and necessity of applying themselves and working hard even when something was not easy or entertaining.

At some point, studying will get difficult and boring. We’ll have to struggle with difficult words and grammatical concepts from time to time. That’s how we learn. We can’t master a new subject if we’re just looking for novelty all the time. As entertaining as the “fun” teachers are, they might not always be the best for us if they don’t also make us work. The teachers I would have claimed as favorites in school were the ones who were funny and entertaining. I remember them well, and I even remember some of their funny stories, but I don’t remember much of what they taught in their classes. However, I do remember lots of boring things like grammar, multiplication tables, and spelling rules that my strict teachers forced me to memorize day in and day out. I didn’t have fun in their classes, and I hated all the homework. But all the hard work and memorization forced me to learn things that are nearly impossible to forget now.

The real shortcut to learning is to stop looking for shortcuts. Stop demanding constant novelty and entertainment. We master subjects by wrestling with new ideas and concepts, making mistakes, and building on the foundations of what we’ve learned before. To make real progress, we have to stop demanding that everything be fun and easy and develop the discipline and mental fortitude necessary to truly succeed.

The modern mind is like a spoiled child demanding constant entertainment. We need to stop spoiling our brains, stop trying to work around their childish cravings for novelty, and start disciplining them. There is truth to the saying that the mind is a muscle. Like our other muscles, the mind will grow through strenuous activity. Just as we gain strength and muscle mass by challenging our physical limits, so too will we gain mental strength by challenging our intellectual limits. We need to stop looking for shortcuts and falling for sales gimmicks telling us what we want to hear and start disciplining ourselves to work hard toward meaningful progress.

a smartphone next to an open notebook

How Texting Affects Literacy and Grammar

With all the advancements in communication in the last few decades, texting has become a commonplace form of communication. Because of the quick and often brief nature of texting, a new abbreviated communication register referred to as “textese” has surfaced. Due to the informal nature of textese and its blatant disregard for basic grammar and spelling rules, textese has received a lot of negative attention from the media. Many claims have been made about how detrimental texting is, especially to peoples’ reading and writing abilities. It has been claimed that texting and the use of textese damage spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and literacy. Much research has been done on the effects of texting and surprisingly shows some positive results. Many studies that show negative results, usually among adults, are mixed and inconclusive, often citing a need for more research. Texting may get a lot of bad publicity from the media and others making big claims without doing their research, but it may not be as bad as they assume. In fact, texting may have more positive effects than negative. Contrary to popular belief, texting is not always detrimental to literacy and grammar and is rather beneficial in many ways.

Research indicates that texting does not necessarily have the negative effects on literacy that many people have been led to believe it does. Studies show mixed results, but they largely indicate that texting has positive effects with few or no negative effects on literacy and grammar among children and adults. M.A. Drouin points out that “studies in both the United States and Britain have shown that there are no significant, negative relationships between the use of textese and standard measures of literacy,” and that those studies actually indicate positive effects among children and little effect on young adults.[1] However, research, especially concerning adults, is often inconclusive. With so many variables in regard to people and their environments and circumstances, it is difficult to determine consistent trends and effects brought on by texting. It is likely that an adult’s comprehension of literacy and grammar systems is determined more by his own competency than by his use of language.

Regarding children, research indicates that texting offers some clear benefits. As children learn to differentiate between textese and formal writing, they improve their literacy and grammar skills through texting. If children are capable of such improvement with relative ease, adults should at least be able to differentiate between the registers of textese and standard English and know the appropriate time and place to use each one. Drouin says, “It does not appear that textese just seeps out into writing everywhere and in equal amounts; instead, the average person uses textese thoughtfully, and more often within the contexts deemed ‘appropriate.’”[2] People are not usually oblivious when using textese. They generally seem to make the deliberate choice to use it or not. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron also pick up on this idea of the average person’s awareness in their study: “Our results suggest that the impact of ‘lazy’ language use when texting may have been overstated. Our findings reinforce the need to differentiate between the deliberate violation of grammatical or orthographic convention and a genuine lack of understanding.”[3] When a person uses textese, he is likely doing so consciously. The use of textese does not necessarily mean that people are becoming completely ignorant of the proper rules of grammar and syntax in standard English. People are aware of two distinct forms of communication, even if they do not always choose the best one.

Even in the case that an individual being truly oblivious or grammatically incompetent, textese could still be potentially useful to him if he still wishes to make use of the convenient flexibility of textese. De Jonge and Kemp assert that “if less competent language users are drawn to the creativity and flexibility of textese in a way that improves their language skills through exposure to written language (as has been suggested with younger children), then mobile phones could prove useful in educational settings.”[4] As with children, textese could prove beneficial even to young adults, if it serves to expose them to written language and encourages them to experiment and manipulate it in different contexts. Of course, texting is not preferable or comparable to real language education, but something is better than nothing. Texting has the potential to be beneficial to people of differing levels of linguistic competency.

There are other factors to consider besides the competency of the person texting when considering the effect of textese on literacy and grammar. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron point out that things like the state of the person texting and even the texting device they are using also play make a difference. Factors such as time constraints, emotional states, and who is the intended recipient of a message can all affect how a person texts, as “the use of kisses, emoticons, and multiple punctuation marks might have more to do with one’s tendency to feel or to display emotion and affection, than with one’s grammatical or orthographic prowess.”[5] Different situations call for different levels of correctness and formality; the use or neglect of standard grammar and punctuation in a situation that does not require their strict application does not necessarily indicate any detrimental effects of texting on an individual. Wood and associates also indicate that “the inclusion or omission of conventional punctuation and capitalization might be determined more by the sophistication of self-correcting phone technology than by the skill of the writer.”[6] Even the notorious “auto-correct” functions account for some of the apparent lack of literacy and grammatical skill associated with texting.

Texting is not necessarily as detrimental as people often think. On the contrary it can actually be quite beneficial, particularly to children. Research shows that children who text frequently tend to be better readers. Deacon and Whitzman point out that the more proficient a child is at texting, the more proficient he is at spelling and reading standard English and believe “it seems unlikely that texting, on its own, impairs children’s development of the vital reading and writing skills that they need in the classroom.”[7] Studies indicate that texting does not have negative effects on children’s literacy and rather show the opposite. Van Dijk and associates assert that in most studies “children’s use of textese and their spelling and literacy abilities were found to be positively related.”[8] Drouin and Driver agree that textisms are positively related to children’s literacy.[9] Wood, Kemp, and Waldron also observe that school children “who used more ungrammatical word forms and more unconventional orthographic forms showed better . . . spelling and growth in orthographic processing.”[10] Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, research indicates that the more children use textese, the more their literacy improves.

There are several possible reasons for the positive effects of textese on children. One common idea is that texting is fun because it allows children the freedom to play and experiment with language without regard for spelling and punctuation rules. If children enjoy the fun of texting and using language in this way, they are more likely to enjoy and appreciate other literacy-based endeavors as well, further increasing their interest in the use of language. Van Dijk and associates suggest that texting exposes children to more text and also increases their “phonological and phonetic awareness” to improve their reading skills, suggesting that simple exposure to text itself, whether typing it or reading it, provides practice of sorts and increases children’s awareness and mastery of reading and using text.[11] Wood, Kemp, and Waldron echo this idea as they discuss the phonetic nature of many textisms: “Their use contributes to phonological awareness and phonological processing, which in turn contribute to spelling development.”[12] Simply gaining more exposure to language and putting it to use in different ways contributes to children’s development.

Van Dijk and associates suggest another idea that texting generally increases children’s awareness of different registers and the appropriate times and places to use each register.[13] Texting may help children to understand that there are different registers of speech and writing and to differentiate between those registers as they learn where and when each register is appropriate. Children who frequently use textese may develop advantages similar to those of bilingual children. It is possible that switching between the registers of textese and standard English may exercise similar mental functions to switching between languages. Van Dijk and associates point out that being bilingual strengthens one’s abilities to suppress certain information while making use of information relevant to a given situation, even a non-linguistic situation.[14] A similar process for choosing between registers of speech and writing could offer the same benefits.

Texting has been found to have positive effects not only on children’s literacy but also on their grammar. Much like the effects of texting on basic literacy functions, its effects on grammar are largely positive. Van Dijk and associates found that “the more words children omitted in their text messages, the better their grammar performance,” suggesting that the omission of words in textese may train children’s grammar systems and improve grammatical performance in their speech.[15] Similar to the way exposure to texting and manipulation of language improves phonological awareness, experimentation with omitting words enhances grammatical performance. Van Dijk and associates further explain that “by using textese, . . . children apply rules of grammar and do so in a context-sensitive manner.”[16] When children regularly analyze sentences and make decisions about which words to drop in ever-changing contexts over text, they are essentially doing grammar exercises without even realizing it. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron’s studies agree that texting has no detrimental effects on grammar and found that grammatical violations in texting do not appear to be linked to loss of grammar skills.[17] Texting has no significant detrimental effects on grammar, but rather improves understanding of grammar. Writing is an art form, and as with any art, one must understand the rules before he can break them. Combined with an understanding of the rules of standard English grammar, textese can help deepen a student’s understanding of grammar as he picks grammatical constructions apart and uses them in different ways and contexts. The manipulation of language to write in textese actually exercises grammar systems and improves understanding of grammar. As long as the correct rules are learned, remembered, and applied when appropriate, breaking them through textese offers only benefits.

Many of the claims against texting for its supposed negative effects on literacy and grammar are woefully unfounded. Studies indicate that texting is more often beneficial than detrimental to literacy and grammar. It is especially beneficial to children and likely harmless if not beneficial to adults as well. Texting exposes children to text in new ways and contexts and serves as a mental exercise to sharpen their understanding of grammar. Studies show mixed results regarding the effects of texting on adults, but many apparent linguistic deficiencies in adults can often be attributed to outside factors or to the individual’s own carelessness or lack of linguistic competence in general. Texting may break a lot of rules, but, so long as the distinction between registers is understood and each register is used appropriately, there is likely no need to worry about texting destroying our language skills.


[1]. M.A. Drouin, “College Students’ Text Messaging, Use of Textese and Literacy Skills,” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 27, no. 1 (February 2011): 69, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[2]. Drouin, “College Students’ Text-messaging,” 72.

[3].Clare Wood, Nenagh Kemp, and Sam Waldron, “Exploring the Longitudinal Relationships Between the Use of Grammar in Text Messaging and Performance on Grammatical Tasks,” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 32, no. 4 (November 2014): 427, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[4]. Sarah De Jonge and Nenagh Kemp. “Text-message Abbreviations and Language Skills in High School and University Students,” Journal of Research In Reading 35, no. 1 (February 2012): 65, accessed April 5, 2017,  Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[5]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[6]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[7]. Helene Deacon and Sara Whitzman, “Does Texting Lead to Poor Literacy Skills?,” Literacy Today no. 67 (December 2011): 15, accessed March 29, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[8]. Chantal N. van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language on Grammar and Executive Functions in Primary School Children,” Plos ONE 11, no. 3 (March 31, 2016): 2, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[9]. Michelle Drouin and Brent Driver, “Texting, Textese, and Literacy Abilities: A Naturalistic Study.” Journal of Research In Reading 37, no. 3 (August 2014): 264, accessed March 28, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[10]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[11]. Van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language,” 3.

[12]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 425.

[13]. Van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language,” 3.

[14]. Ibid., 4-5.

[15]. Ibid., 16.

[16]. Van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language,” 17.

[17]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

Roman architecture

The Benefits of Studying Latin

Latin may be a dead language, but it is not useless or irrelevant. For years the study of Latin was common practice in schools and colleges for good reason. Though Latin is no longer a requirement in most schools or college majors, the study of Latin still has benefits, no matter what discipline one might be studying. The study of Latin sharpens the mind and enriches a good education in other areas of study.

The study of Latin enriches a student’s education through its deep connections to history, philosophy, and culture. Many great Roman thinkers, scholars, and writers recorded their works in Latin. Roman thinkers had great influence on other peoples, languages, and legal systems, including America’s: “Our own culture, including our system of government, architecture, art and religion, shows the heavy influence of Rome.”[1] Studying Latin gives a student a better appreciation and understanding of these ancient scholars, their works, and their enduring influences in today’s world. As Claude Pauver observes, “You don’t just read about Seneca or Caesar; you read the words of Seneca and Caesar themselves.”[2] The study of Latin gives a student a deeper understanding and appreciation of influential Latin works by enabling him to study works in their original language. Latin’s historical and cultural roots improve a student’s understanding and appreciation of ancient literary works and their influence on world history and culture.

Studying Latin also improves a student’s study of English and foreign languages. An understanding of Latin improves a student’s study of grammar and expands his vocabulary. According to the University of Illinois, “Students of Latin see immediate benefits to their spoken and written English. More than 65% of English words come from Latin.”[3] Studying Latin improves a student’s understanding and use of the English language. Pauver asserts that after studying Latin, “you don’t just speak your own modern language unreflectively, but you learn where much of it came from, after actually seeing the contents and the workings of one of its greatest sources.”[4] These benefits are not only gained by English speakers, but also by speakers and learners of other foreign languages that have Latin roots and influences, such as French and Spanish. An understanding of Latin enhances a student’s study and comprehension of English and other languages that are derived from and influenced by Latin.

In addition to improving a student’s understanding and appreciation of history and languages, the study of Latin also sharpens a student’s mind for better mental performance in general, no matter what he is studying. Latin forces a student to stretch his mind and think in new ways, because it is difficult and takes discipline to learn. The mind is like a muscle: it improves as one uses it and wrestles with new and difficult concepts. With these facts in mind, Sal Khan asserts that “our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.”[5] Wrestling with a difficult subject like Latin forces a student’s mind to grow and improve for better function in any field of study. By sharpening a student’s mind, studying Latin can enhance performance in all his academic endeavors.

Despite being a dead language, Latin continues to offer multiple benefits. An understanding of Latin improves a student’s understanding and appreciation of many ancient works and other areas of study, and it stretches and sharpens a student’s mind for increased function in any other mental undertaking. Even in the modern world, the study of ancient Latin has limitless benefits.


[1]. Department of the Classics, “Why Study Latin?”, University of Illinois, accessed April 5, 2020, https://classics.illinois.edu/admissions/why-study-latin.

[2]. Claude Pauver, “Some Leading Benefits of Latin (and Classical) Studies, “Saint Louis University, 2009, accessed, April 5, 2020, https://www.slu.edu/colleges/AS/languages/classical/latin/tchmat/pedagogy/latinbenefits.html.

[3]. Department of the Classics, “Why Study Latin?”, University of Illinois, accessed March 23, 2017, https://classics.illinois.edu/admissions/why-study-latin.

[4]. Claude Pauver, “Some Leading Benefits of Latin (and Classical) Studies, “Saint Louis University, 2009, accessed, March 23, 2017, http://www.slu.edu/colleges/AS/languages/classical/latin/tchmat/pedagogy/latinbenefits.html.

[5]. Sal Khan, “The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart,” Khan Academy, accessed April 5, 2020, https://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/conversations-with-sal/a/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes-smart.

a group of giraffes

Some Humorous Group Names of Animals

Have you ever wondered why we use such strange terms for groups of different animals, or where these terms came from? Having so many ridiculous names for groups of animals might seem a little excessive or pointless, but they were originally coined with a purpose.

Words referring to groups of animals are called terms of venery, an old word for “hunting” derived from the Latin word venari, meaning “to hunt, or pursue.”​1 Although most terms of venery are largely unknown and unnecessary for most of us today, they were once part of Medieval hunting traditions, which included a plethora of specific terms for groups of animals. Considering the sheer number of terms and the arguable lack of practicality of such jargon, it is quite possible that many terms of venery may have been used more for academic purposes or as an indicator of one’s expensive education rather than for regular use among the common folk.​2 Even solitary animals that do not naturally form groups have their own special terms for no apparent reason other than to say they have one.

Terms of venery have been recorded in several notable works. One of the most famous books to include terms of venery is The Book of Saint Albans, also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms, which was likely written by a highly educated prioress named Juliana Berners. Enthusiasts looking for a more modern collection of terms might also be interested in James Lipton‘s An Exaltation of Larks, which includes old terms of venery along with collective nouns for just about anything else imaginable.

Now that we know where all the strange animal terminology came from, let’s have a look at a few interesting and humorous names for groups of animals.

  • Apes: a “shrewdness” — A clever term for one of the more clever creatures of the animal kingdom.
  • Cats: A group of cats may be called a “clowder” or a “glaring.” The latter is easy to remember since cats have those big “glaring” eyes they always glare so disapprovingly at everyone with. A group of kittens is called a “litter” or a “kindle,” and a group of wild cats is aptly named a “destruction.”
  • Cockroaches: an “intrusion” — This might be the most fitting term on the list.
  • Crows: a “murder” — A fitting name and easy to remember considering their associations with death.
  • Flamingos: a “stand” or a “flamboyance” — Both of these words are very appropriate, but “flamboyance” has to be more fun to say. And what bird is more flamboyant than a bright pink flamingo?
  • Frogs: an “army” — Remember this one by thinking about the second of the ten plagues God sent on Egypt in Exodus 8. Egyptians saw frogs as a sign of fertility associated with their goddess Heqet. It’s interesting how God used their own idols and gods against them.
  • Giraffes: a “tower” — Never mind, this one might be more fitting than an intrusion of cockroaches.
  • Hippos: a “bloat” — They do look a little bloated.
  • Jellyfish: a “smack” — Should have been a “sting.” *Ba dum tss*
  • Komodo dragons: a “bank” — What creature has ever been better at guarding gold than dragons? From Beowulf to the The Hobbit, dragons have always been very stingy with their money.
  • Lemurs: a “conspiracy” — Makes sense. Their eyes just make it look like they’re up to something.
  • Locusts: a “plague” — Another one to remember from the plagues on Egypt. This one begins in Exodus 10.
  • Monkeys: a “barrel” or a “troop” — So that’s why that game was called Barrel of Monkeys.
  • Owls: a “parliament” — This term is sensible given the owl’s association with wisdom and intelligence. It was probably quite a compliment to the owl to be associated with human politicians when the term was coined, but now it might be more of an insult.
  • Penguins: A group of penguins on land may be referred to as a “colony,” a “rookery,” or a “waddle;” while a group of penguins floating in the water is called a “raft.”
  • Rattlesnakes: a “rhumba” — This one just makes me think of robot vacuum cleaners.
  • Ravens: an “unkindness” — This name makes good sense since ravens have similar connotations to crows — not to mention how “unkind” their call is to the ears.
  • Seagulls: a “squabble” — Makes perfect sense, especially if you’ve ever seen seagulls “squabbling” for a piece of food.
  • Tigers: an “ambush” — “Ambush” is an accurate description of a tiger’s hunting methods, which often involve stalking its prey and hiding in the bushes before a swift surprise attack.
  • Toads: a “knot” — Toads are so lumpy that they do sort of bring to mind a knot in a tree or log.
  • Vipers: a “generation” — In Matthew 23:33, Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees and asked them, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
  • Vultures: A group of vultures is called a “committee” when resting, a “kettle” when in flight, and a “wake” when feeding. Since they feed on carcasses, “wake” is a very fitting term.
  • Worms: a “bunch” — I would have guessed “can.” Sorry, that was bad.
  • Zebras: a “zeal” — Not sure what zeal has to do with zebras, but at least both words start with Z for easy recollection.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article. Share your favorite terms of venery in the comments below! Consider subscribing and following the Grammarai Warrior Facebook page for updates.


1Douglas Harper, “Venery,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed March 21, 2020, https://www.etymonline.com/word/venery).

2​ Sarthak Chatterjee, “What Are the Origins of Bizarre Names for Animal Groups?,” Quora (Quora, May 24, 2015), https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-origins-of-bizarre-names-for-animal-groups?share=1).