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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
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
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for scavengers
  • The swine that ran at large in the streets, practically the only scavengers, were banished.
  • The carnivores, in turn, lured other predators and scavengers.
  • Goats and buffaloes graze amid the reeking mounds, and thousands of scavengers comb the site, looking for items of value.
  • Most of the scavengers had closed shoes and some kind of headwear, but only a few wore rubber boots and gloves.
  • Stone tools gave humans an advantage: they no longer needed to compete with scavengers.
  • However, they shared features common to both full-time scavengers and predators, causing debate about how they subsisted.
  • Crows are scavengers, and they'll take whatever food they can get.
  • Spotted hyenas are sometimes portrayed as cowardly scavengers, always laughing, always up to some kind of mischief.
  • Beside predators that the hawk would have to watch out for, there are scavengers and opportunistic scavengers to watch out for.
  • And unlike modern condors, it was no mere scavengers.
British Dictionary definitions for scavengers

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 scavengers

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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scavengers 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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Encyclopedia Article for scavengers

scavenger

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

Learn more about scavenger with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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