an animal or other organism that feeds on dead organic matter.
a person who searches through and collects items from discarded material.
a street cleaner.
Chemistry. a chemical that consumes or renders inactive the impurities in a mixture.

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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
scavenger (ˈskævɪndʒə)
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
[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 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

originally "person hired to remove refuse from streets," from M.E. scawageour (1373), London official in charge of collecting tax on goods sold by foreign merchants, from Anglo-Fr. scawager, from scawage "toll or duty on goods offered for sale in one's precinct" (1402), from O.N.Fr. escauwage "inspection,"
from a Gmc. source (cf. O.H.G. scouwon, O.E. sceawian "to look at, inspect," see show). With intrusive -n- (1503) as in harbinger, passenger, messenger. Extended to animals 1596. The verb scavenge is a 1644 back-formation. Scavenger hunt is attested from 1940.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
scavenger   (skāv'ən-jər)  Pronunciation Key 
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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Encyclopedia Britannica


animal that feeds partly or wholly on the bodies of dead animals. Many invertebrates, such as carrion beetles, live almost entirely on decomposing animal matter. The burying beetles actually enter the dead bodies of small animals before feeding on them underground

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Yahoo has created some promotions for advertisers in the vein of scavenger
  hunts, he adds, but none as elaborate as this one.
Melatonin failed as a sleeping pill and its uses as a scavenger of free
  radicals are dubious at best.
Some cite this as evidence that t rex was a scavenger.
The bot bakeoffs included a scavenger hunt and a poker tournament.
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