In this article, we’ll be looking at why we give animals collective nouns, why we give deers these. We’ll be glancing at a few of the Etymologies of words we use all the time but don’t think about.
What is a group of deer called?
You can call a group of deer a “Herd”, but you can also refer to them as a bunch, mob, parcel, or rangale.
Why do we have collective nouns?
Why do we even need a collective noun for any sort of animal? Wouldn’t it just be easier to call all groups of animals, groups?
And the simple answer to that question is “Yes”.
However, our culture and society is not a simple one. A long time ago, hunting was a common sport, particularly among the upper class. Many people would use these collective nouns just to show off how much they know about hunting. By showing off such knowledge, you were making it clear that you were a member of the upper class, and highly educated.
How do we decide on collective nouns?
The next question is “how do we decide what to call these groups?”
There isn’t a one size fits all answer here, the different animals will be given different collective nouns.
For example, crows are an animal often associated with death. In many pieces of classic literature, you’ll find them hanging about graveyards, likely because their black colour reminds many of death. For these reasons, a group of crows is called a murder.
Owls have a look about them that suggests they’re very wise and they know the ways of the world. If you want to know if there is a god, or how to live a better life, you might ask an owl. We even call wise people “wise old owls”. Back then, there was a belief that members of Parliament were also wise. Likely because the only people who could vote were in the same class as the MPs.
For this reason, a group of owls is called a Parliament.
Rangale and Parcel
But back to deers. Why is a group of deers called a Rangale or a Parcel?
Rangale comes from the old French word “Rengaille”. This would be the main body of the army—the regular folk who have decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. And just like an army, deer are almost always seen together. They do everything together, from eating to sleeping, or fighting.
Parcel comes from Particula (in Latin), it means small part or small portion. A smaller herd of deer will often be referred to as a “parcel”.
As with many animals, they don’t just have a collective noun; there are many different words to refer to members of those animals. And it can get a little bit confusing, so bear with me.
As we all know from that song, a female deer is called a Doe. But a female deer can also be a Hind (if she’s at least two years old).
The head male is sometimes called the “Stag”. This is where we can the phrase “Stag Do” from. The other men are called “Bucks”.
And the babies are called “Fawns”.
Origin of the word “Deer”
The word deer has an Etymology that goes to show how our language can evolve, and words that used to mean something can now mean something else.
The word deer comes from the old English Déor. But back when people first coined the name, it wasn’t referring to that specific type of animal. A Déor was any wild animal that walked on four legs, so that could have been a boar, a badger, a hedgehog, or any other kind of 4 legged animals who lived in the wild.
Much like when you eat a cow, you’re eating beef; when you eat a deer, you’re eating venison. And while beef and venison have their origin in old French, their relation to the animal is not the same.
With beef, boef is simply “cow” in old French. However, venison doesn’t mean deer. The old French got the word Venesoun from the Latin Vanari. And the word meant to hunt.
The brought the word over when the Saxons invaded.
So venison wasn’t referring to the type of animal, it was about how it was killed. Over time, venison came to mean “deer meat”.
Deers are herd animals
Just like many other animals, deer like to live in large groups. You may very well see a deer out on its own, to go grazing, or to drink in a river. But generally, these guys live and work together.
Living collectively makes sense for prey animals such as deer as sticking together will lower the chances of becoming someone else’s dinner.
Types of deer
Among deer, there are several species. And all of them have the same collective nouns that we’ve already mentioned.
The moose is the largest of the deer family. Best known for their impressive antlers. Despite what some people like to joke, a group of moose is not called a meese.
Reindeer are another popular kind of deer. They’re best known for helping Santa fly through the sky at Christmas. Although most reindeer cannot fly, they’re still beautiful animals.
If you like Bambi, then you need to know about the Mule Deer. These guys are the cute and sweet animals that Disney have made us fall in love with.
Others kinds of deer include Elk, Red Deer, and Roe Deer.
We like to give collective nouns to animals because a long time ago, posh people wanted to show off how much they knew. And the collective nouns that were given to deer were a herd, bunch, mob, parcel, and rangale.
The old English Déor used to mean any four-legged wild animal but later came to refer to a specific animal. And venison used to mean any hunted meat, but later became specifically deer.