Groups of animals are referred to by specific collective nouns. A herd of cattle, a flock of birds and a nest of hornets are familiar. A kindle is a lesser-known way to describe a family of kittens born to one cat. It's synonymous with the more familiar collective noun: litter.
Origins of the Name
The use of the word "kindle" to describe a family of kittens comes from the Middle English word kindelen, meaning "to give birth to" and kindel, meaning "offspring." Both probably stemmed from the Old Norse word kynda. The word may also be spelled kendle or kyndyll. In German, the word for children is similar: kinder, the origin of the English word kindergarten. It seems that describing a family of kittens as a kindle isn't so odd, after all.
Other Group Baby Names
Every animal has a special title for its young, such as a kangaroo's joey or a horse's foal. Only a few animals have a different name for a group of their youngsters, however, the way cats have kindles of kittens. A group of baby rabbits is also sometimes called a kindle. Chickens have a peep of chicks. Dogs, hogs and pigs have litters of pups. Some animal group names are just plain misleading. Though you might think a school of whales are young with much to learn, a school can consist of whales of any age.
Unusual Names for Animal Babies
It's a shame all baby animals aren't named sensibly, the way baby cranes are called cranelings, baby boars are boarlets and baby peafowls are peachicks. Other baby animal names make you scratch your head in wonder. A baby mackerel is a blinker or a spike; a baby ewe is a teg. A baby hawk is an eyas, while a baby platypus is a puggle. A baby sheep is a cosset, while a baby swan is a cygnet.
Unusual Animal Group Names
The names given to animal groups, which may or may not include babies of the species, are sometimes well-known or easily understood. It's common, for example, for a group of birds to be known as a flock, or a group of large mammals to be called a herd. Exactly why groups of mice and rats are both called mischief, but a group of moles is a labor, is a bit of a puzzle. Why a group of owls is a parliament and a group of nightingales is a watch instead of a flock is a mystery. The fact that a group of crickets is called an orchestra is somewhat amusing, considering the sound they make together.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.