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scavenger

[skav-in-jer] /ˈskæv ɪn dʒər/
noun
1.
an animal or other organism that feeds on dead organic matter.
2.
a person who searches through and collects items from discarded material.
3.
a street cleaner.
4.
Chemistry. a chemical that consumes or renders inactive the impurities in a mixture.
Origin of scavenger
1520-1530
1520-30; earlier scavager < Anglo-French scawageour, equivalent to (e)scawage inspection (escaw(er) to inspect < Middle Dutch schauwen to look at (cognate with show) + -age -age) + -eour -or2
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for scavenger

scavenger

/ˈskævɪndʒə/
noun
1.
a person who collects things discarded by others
2.
any animal that feeds on decaying organic matter, esp on refuse
3.
a substance added to a chemical reaction or mixture to counteract the effect of impurities
4.
a person employed to clean the streets
Derived Forms
scavengery, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Anglo-Norman scawager, from Old Norman French escauwage examination, from escauwer to scrutinize, of Germanic origin; related to Flemish scauwen
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for scavenger
n.

1540s, originally "person hired to remove refuse from streets," from Middle English scawageour (late 14c.), London official in charge of collecting tax on goods sold by foreign merchants, from Anglo-French scawager, from scawage "toll or duty on goods offered for sale in one's precinct" (c.1400), from Old North French escauwage "inspection," from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German scouwon, Old English sceawian "to look at, inspect;" see show (v.)).

It has come to be regarded as an agent noun in -er, but the verb is a late back-formation from the noun. With intrusive -n- (c.1500) as in harbinger, passenger, messenger. Extended to animals 1590s. Scavenger hunt is attested from 1937.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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scavenger in Science
scavenger
  (skāv'ən-jər)   
An animal that feeds on dead organisms, especially a carnivorous animal that eats dead animals rather than or in addition to hunting live prey. Vultures, hyenas, and wolves are scavengers.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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