1. An unusually diverse or motley group of persons or things
  2. A collection of wild, rare, or unusual animals, or a place where such animals are kept


As children, some of us might have dreamed of having our own menageries, complete with pandas, otters, and zebras. Such childish ambitions draw upon the original usage of menagerie, which refers to a collection of animals. Specifically, the animals in a menagerie are usually wild animals or at least somewhat exotic. Thus, a circus which features live performances with elephants, tigers, lions, and apes would travel with a menagerie of exotic creatures. Likewise, a wildlife park which features wolves, grizzly bears, elk, moose, and more contains a menagerie of its own, since the animals there might be less exotic but are no less wild. In addition, the wildlife park itself and the circus train which carries the animals in the circus, as enclosures containing an assemblage of wild animals, are menageries as well. On the other hand, neither Farmer Brown's collection of chickens, turkeys, cows, and sheep nor the barn in which those animals are housed could be described as a menagerie, or if they were that usage would be tongue in cheek, since those animals are rather mundane and domesticated.

While menagerie originally referred to a passel of various wild animals, in modern usage it is often used to refer to a varied mixture of persons or things. For example, if you attended a job fair where you were impressed by the wide variety of career fields represented, you might remark, "Wow! We've got quite a menagerie of career options to consider here." This would mean that there was an exceptionally wide spectrum of jobs at the fair. Similarly, if you were to hold auditions for the lead role in a play, you might get the chance to observe "a most unusual menagerie of thespians." In other words, the auditioning actors and actresses are different from one another in many ways.

Example: Lois' closet is swamped with a veritable menagerie of shoes!

Example: For such a small zoo, it has an impressive menagerie of wildlife.

Example: There was widespread panic, as well as excitement, in the town due to a rumor that the circus animals had escaped from their menagerie.


Menagerie was first used in English in the early 18th century to refer to a captive collection of wild animals. It derives from the French noun ménagerie meaning an enclosure for domestic animals. The French ménagerie comes from the Old French manage, which means "a family household." The latter term traces back to the Vulgar Latin mansionaticum, meaning a household, which stems from the Latin word for "dwelling place," mansionem.

Derivative Words

Ménage: This noun, derived like menagerie from the French manage, refers to the members or the management of a household. Typically used as the phrase "ménage à trois" - which is French for "household of three".

Example: "The Robertson's whole ménage just went traipsing across our grass again!" muttered Hank irritably.

In Literature

From Henry David Thoreau's Walden:

When, as was commonly the case, I had none to commune with, I used to raise the echoes by striking with a paddle on the side of my boat, filling the surrounding woods with circling and dilating sound, stirring them up as the keeper of a menagerie his wild beasts, until I elicited a growl from every wooded vale and hillside.

Here, Thoreau uses menagerie to compare the way he rouses the woods with his echoes to the way an animal keeper might rouse up his animals.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby:

"Who is this Gatsby anyhow?" demanded Tom suddenly. "Some big bootlegger?" "Where'd you hear that?" I inquired.
"I didn't hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know."
"Not Gatsby," I said shortly.
He was silent for a moment. The pebbles of the drive crunched under his feet. "Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerie together."

Here, Tom Buchanan begins to jealously question the means through which Gatsby gained the wealth which has enabled him to assemble such a menagerie of fancy things and wild people.


  • A strange animal gallery
    Is called a menagerie.
  • It is hard to manage a menagerie,
    Because of all its diversity and variety.


Animals, Zoos, People, Collections, Groups

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of menagerie. Did you use menagerie in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.