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On Collective Terms

Many years ago at EpiMonitor  we ran a contest to select a collective term for epidemiologists.  Below you'll see some of the more humorous submissions we received from all of you.  Can you think of something more timely or relevant ?  Send it to us using the CONTACT form.

Is a cohort too obvious? What about:

A Sample: after all, one may never see all the world's epidemiologists altogether, thus any group will be a sample.

A Doll: this word would describe epidemiologists numerically in a manner that Hurts, Watt Chu Farraday applied to other physical phenomena. Thus, 10 epidemiologists would be 10 dolls. This would promote name of an epidemiologist for a Nobel Prize and, besides, everyone knows epidemiologists are dolls.

A Swarm: there are some who aver that epidemiology is the queen of the sciences. Thus epidemiologists constitute a swarm about the queen in the hive (a new word for the epidemiology department).

Dorothy Worth, M.D.


"You mentioned the need for a collective noun to describe a plurality of epidemiologists. Given the oft-time monastic intellectual aspects of our discipline, and the common form in which we examine our data, can there be any description but that of a cell of epidemiologists?..."

Chris Bain


 I propose the following is collective terms for epidemiologists:

·         a confounding of epidemiologists

·         an outbreak of epidemiologists

·         a cohort of the epidemiologists

·         an association of epidemiologists

·         a cross-section of epidemiologists

·         a trial of epidemiologists

·         an epidemic of epidemiologists

·         a sample of epidemiologists

·         a cluster of epidemiologists

Fred Ederer

A group of epidemiologists? How about a term in honor of our past - a flurry of epidemiologists. The honor, of course, would be to Dr. Snow. A larger group would of course be a "blizzard," and a small group with just a couple of "flakes."

James W. Justice, M.D.


A suitable collective term for epidemiologists is clearly "an outbreak of epidemiologists." One could use "an epidemic of epidemiologists" too, but it is redundant, so to speak.

David Lilienfeld


"I am a bit behind in my reading and noted your solicitation in the October EpiMonitor. A peaceful weekend stimulated my cerebral network to the following scale:

Mundane                     A case of epidemiologists

                                    A cohort of epidemiologists

Sublime                       An endowment of epidemiologists

                                    An encystment of epidemiologists

Ridiculous                    An eclecticism of epidemiologists

                                    Chimeras of epidemiologists


I must stop here as it is unclear where the road from the ridiculous may lead...

Stephen R. Redmond, M.D.


If we can have a colony of bacteriologists, why not a population of epidemiologists - or a sample of epidemiologists, or even a cohort of them?

On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn't consider these confounding epidemiologists at all. They may just be artifacts.

Ramona Lunt, MPH


I am responding to suggestions for a collective term for epidemiologists:

a sample of epidemiologists

a cluster of epidemiologists

Good luck in solving our identity crisis!

Christopher Maylahn


I read, with interest, the collective terms proposed for epidemiologists. They were generally catchy, but all missed something. I would like to propose a term which not only has a collective connotation, but which also adds an onomatopoeic luster (which the others seem to lack).

gaggle: the term conjures up images of our more memorable meetings (SER). It has a sense of dynamism (?). Webster's second definition for it is: aggregation, cluster. Assuredly, the more dignified members of our community may not see the purpose of this term...

Leni Field


Collective nouns have been favorites of mine for some time. I've enjoyed' streams of urologists,' ' rashes of dermatologists,' ' pots of pediatrician's,' etc. I can't resist the following communication:

If epidemiologist is what epidemiologists do, then it follows that a do of epidemiologists might be an appropriate collective noun. This has an active, positive and constructive connotation. It also has a rather elegant connotation on occasion. For example, in some circles, people speak of dog do. Even this might be appropriate for those epidemiologists who sometimes do not. Besides, it's shorter than' doll.'

If this is too far-fetched, how about a host of epidemiologists or a case of same?

Donald R. Peterson, M.D., MPH

I am a late entrance in your search for a collective term for epidemiologists, although I have thought about it for some time.

Having read the January number with a suggestion of a "Doll" and with Manning Feinleib’s  interview, I could suggest a "snow" of epidemiologists but that is probably a bit too clever. A "legion" of epidemiologists is less obvious than a cohort, but again, I think it is too clever for the person or doctor in the street, who I think, is the objective of description.

I thus come to an "epidemic" of epidemiologists or even a "case" of epidemiologists, but both are a little pedestrian.

Thus, my coup de grâce, and that the people who only think they know what epidemiologists do and don't much like it, and also think that there are getting to be too many of us around, I suggest then "outbreak" of epidemiologists.

Stuart Donnan

The suggestion to use "cohort" as the designation of a group of epidemiologists is unfortunate since the term already has a generally accepted technical meaning within the profession. In my view, it would be preferable to create or borrow a word that will not add to the confusion that characterizes so much of our present jargon... I tend to favor a "knot of epidemiologists" since knotty problems justify our existence and since we often tie ourselves into knots whenever we congregate to deal with controversies in our field...

Robert Moore, Ph.D.

"... A cohort of epidemiologists, forsooth! Have you caused for one moment to consider the consequences, not least among which the endless arguing as to whether or not one should recognize a trohoc oftsigoloimedipes…?

Let us leave cohorts to demographers (and clusters to statisticians) and let us sally forth in HERDS!

Michel C. Thuriaux


"... My suggestion for a group of epidemiologists (though not very appealing to the general public) is:

A plague of epidemiologists

Johannis Leeuwenburg


... Emboldened by my modest success in your earlier t-shirt contest, I submit herewith some suggested names for a collection of epidemiologists. I do not hold with the early majority of my colleagues who favor "cohort," on the grounds that the word has attained a legitimacy that is not in the spirit of the contest. How dull to find a cohort of epidemiologists among a flourish of strumpets, or a wince of dentists!

So, here we go...

6.      A confounding of epidemiologists

7.      A cross-section of epidemiologists

8.      An attribution of epidemiologists

9.      A decrement of epidemiologists

10.  And exposure of epidemiologists

Kindness forbids my continuing.

William R. Gaffey, Ph.D.

... a rash of epidemiologists

This evening the idea seems so good to me but I think I will send it off without looking at it again tomorrow!

Ann V. Millard, PhD

Michigan State University


For a collection of epidemiologists may I suggest, alternatively:

·         a significance of epidemiologists

·         an aggregation of epidemiologists

·         a distribution of epidemiologists

·         an association of epidemiologists

·         a focus of epidemiologists

·         a count of epidemiologists

J. Banta


While pondering your request for a collective term for epidemiologists... I remembered a book I have in my possession entitled An Exaltation of Larks, or the Venereal Game, by James Lipton. This book is itself a collection of collective terms to my surprise I came across a reference to epidemiologists. Maybe someone has already seen or suggested this: a host of epidemiologists. What I like this term, I was not satisfied with it, especially since it had already been attached to another group, namely - a host of angels (host is derived from Latin meaning ‘enemy’ and later ‘an army,’ hence,' Warriors of God)... I came up with the following terms: an inference of epidemiologists; a discipline; a causation; a table; a confounding; a characterization; a discord; a disagreement; a grant.

Ginger Stefanchik





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