Also found in: Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to collective noun: abstract noun
Collective nouns are nouns that refer to a collection or group of multiple people, animals, or things. However, even though collective nouns refer to multiple individuals, they still function as singular nouns in a sentence. This is because they still are technically referring to one thing: the group as a whole.
A noun that denotes a collection of individuals regarded as a unit.
Usage Note: In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in The family was united on this question. The enemy is suing for peace. It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in My family are always fighting among themselves. The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons. In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals: The government have not announced a new policy. The team are playing in the test matches next week. A collective noun should not be treated as both singular and plural in the same construction; thus The family is determined to press its (not their) claim. Among the common collective nouns are committee, clergy, company, enemy, group, family, flock, public, and team. Note that collective nouns always refer to people or living creatures. Similar inanimate nouns, such as furniture and luggage, differ in that they cannot be counted individually. It is ungrammatical to say a furniture or a luggage. These nouns are called mass nouns or noncount nouns, and they always take a singular verb. See Usage Note at group.
(Grammar) a noun that is singular in form but that refers to a group of people or things
Usage: Collective nouns are usually used with singular verbs: the family is on holiday; General Motors is mounting a big sales campaign. In British usage, however, plural verbs are sometimes employed in this context, esp when reference is being made to a collection of individual objects or people rather than to the group as a unit: the family are all on holiday. Care should be taken that the same collective noun is not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence: the family is well and sends its best wishes or the family are all well and send their best wishes, but not the family is well and send their best wishes
a noun, as herd, jury, or clergy, that appears singular in formal shape but denotes a group of individuals or objects.
usage: Whether a collective noun will be used with a singular or plural verb typically depends on whether the word refers to the group as a unit or to its members as individuals. In American English a noun naming an organization regarded as a unit is usu. treated as singular: The corporation is holding its annual meeting. The government has taken action. In British English, such nouns are commonly treated as plurals: The corporation are holding their annual meeting. The government are in agreement. In formal speech and writing collective nouns are usu. not treated as both singular and plural in the same sentence: The enemy is fortifying its position. The enemy are bringing up their heavy artillery. When the nouns couple and pair refer to people, they are usu. treated as plurals: The newly married couple have bought a house. The pair are busy furnishing their new home. The collective nounnumber, when preceded by a, is treated as a plural: A number of solutions were suggested. When preceded by the, it is usu. treated as a singular: The number of solutions offered was astounding. Other common collective nouns are audience, class, committee, crew, crowd, family, flock, group, panel, and staff.