Purple Nebula (gwoman) wrote in word_ancestry,
Purple Nebula
gwoman
word_ancestry

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a murder of crows

a murder of crows
-This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a murther of crowes. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre 'murder,' though the th sound had begun to be replaced with a d around 1300 C.E. There are several theories as to how this particular term came about, but all of them have to do with the supposed behavior of crows. For instance, crows are scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead. Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the "defendant" crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it. There are legends outside of the Germanic culture that relate to crows being judges over people as well, and how their appearance is an omen of death.
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