What is a Group of Worms Called?

earthworm in dirt

One of the great tics of the English language (and perhaps other languages as well) is that groups of certain animals have different names. It is for this reason that one can point to the sky and scream “murder” as a way to acknowledge the group of crows flying overhead. Worms are like any other type of animal, and in fact a group of worms can be called several different things, although how “official” any of these names are is hard to determine. So, our concern is not necessarily centered on what you should call a group of worms, but rather on what people do in fact call a group of worms. That is, our task is descriptive, not prescriptive, as the lexicographers like to say.

First, we should note the obvious: a group of worms can simply (and perfectly accurately) be called a “group of worms.” This is true of any collection of animals, but some names for groups are so ingrained that it almost sounds strange to use a generic term like “group” when referring to them. When you point out to a field dotted with bison, it is quite natural (albeit not grammatically obligatory) to refer to the herd of bison. The same goes for a flock of birds or a swarm of bees. These words just tumble unrestrained out of the mouth of a fluent English speaker. This is certainly not true of a group of worms, which most people probably don’t have a word for. In any case, most readers of this article probably don’t have a word at the ready to refer to a group of worms, or else they wouldn’t have found this article.

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Why no word has spontaneously come to denote “group of worms” is unclear, but one reason perhaps has to do with the fact that the word “worm” is quite vague. As we explained in our article “What is a Worm?,” the word “worm” refers to an obsolete taxon. It therefore doesn’t have a biologically precise meaning, and is instead applied to a broad range of small, cylindrically shaped creatures. Given the semantic fluidity of the word, it is not particularly surprising that a group of worms has no commonly used name. We can’t even figure out what a worm is, so how can we be expected to come up with a name for a whole group of them?

Well, people have come up with names for groups of worms, including:

A bed of worms
A squirm of worms
A wriggle of worms
A clew of worms
A clat of worms
A bunch of worms
A knot of worms

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With the exception of “bunch of worms,” all of these will likely sound foreign. They sound strange to us too, and we spend a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking about worms. Thus, we can’t really offer any sort of “recommended usage.” Based on the number of Google results that are generated by searches for these terms (e.g., “knot of worms”), we can say that the words “squirm,” “wriggle,” and “clew” appear to be about equally obscure – they have around a couple thousand hits each – but the most obscure of all appears to be “clat,” which comes up in a mere 147 times in search results. (Again, this is for the phrase “clat of worms.”)

It is harder to assess the other names because “bed of worms” is part of a song title – “Nailed to the Bed of Worms” by Nervo Chaos, which appears to be a metal band – and “A Knot of Worms” is the title of a poem by Marsha Truman Cooper. A “bunch of worms” is by far the most frequently used phrase in online text, as measured by Google search results, but this presumably has to do with the fact that “bunch” is a common word that is used to refer to any number of different collections of things (“there are a bunch of deer in the park”), or even just to comparatively large amounts of something, like undifferentiated matter (“I drank a bunch of water yesterday”) and sometimes activities (“I did a bunch of running when I was younger”).

So, there are several different names for a group of worms, but it is unclear which are common, and it is even less clear if there can be said to be any sort of “official” term for “group of worms.” You can just stick to using generic terms that denote multiple entities (group, collection, congregation, and so on), or you can pick your favorite word from the above list and use it whenever the circumstances call for it. Indeed, since speakers create language, your use of a given word might help that word become the standard way to refer to a “group of worms.” When this happens, we’ll have to update this article accordingly.

What is a Group of Worms Called?
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What is a Group of Worms Called?
So, our concern is not necessarily centered on what you should call a group of worms, but rather on what people do in fact call a group of worms.

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