scav·​enge ˈska-vənj How to pronounce scavenge (audio)
scavenged; scavenging

transitive verb

: to remove (dirt, refuse, etc.) from an area
: to clean away dirt or refuse from : cleanse
scavenge a street
: to feed on (carrion or refuse)
: to remove (burned gases) from the cylinder of an internal combustion engine after a working stroke
: to remove (something, such as an undesirable constituent) from a substance or region by chemical or physical means
: to clean and purify (molten metal) by taking up foreign elements in chemical union
: to salvage from discarded or refuse material
also : to salvage usable material from

intransitive verb

: to work or act as a scavenger

Examples of scavenge in a Sentence

Rats scavenged in the trash. The bears scavenged the woods for food. He scavenged the town dump for automobile parts.
Recent Examples on the Web The whale’s carcass, which had been scavenged by sharks, was pulled to shore for a necropsy and identified as a mom from the 2024 calving season, having given birth to her sixth calf this past winter. Rebekah Riess, CNN, 5 Apr. 2024 Unfortunately, the carcass of the whale calf was heavily scavenged by other animals before experts found it, so more testing will be required to get answers about the baby whale's death. Kelli Bender, Peoplemag, 5 Mar. 2024 Though the kill site was scavenged by a bear, the crew was able to recover 76 pounds of moose meat which was later donated to the Alaska Department of Safety’s Roadkill Salvage Program. Travis Hall, Field & Stream, 29 Feb. 2024 Yancey was a part of a team of researchers at the University of Michigan that is scavenging for antibiotics and anticancer drugs in Lake Erie’s harmful algae blooms. Caitlin Looby, Journal Sentinel, 8 Jan. 2024 Over a couple of decades, Goody has traveled from Virginia to New Jersey to scavenge machinery. Rachel Dickinson, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Mar. 2024 In the United States and Canada, the only mammals that have gotten the disease — such as foxes, skunks, coyotes and bears — are those known to scavenge on dead birds. Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2024 Carlton took a similarly D.I.Y. approach to his drums, scavenging old buckets and tin plates for his kit. Clay Risen, New York Times, 7 Feb. 2024 Over the past decade, the technology has helped scientists better understand how sharks hunt and scavenge around whales, interact with each other, and prey on seals, according to a 2021 study. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 2 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'scavenge.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


back-formation from scavenger

First Known Use

circa 1644, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of scavenge was circa 1644

Dictionary Entries Near scavenge

Cite this Entry

“Scavenge.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


scav·​enge ˈskav-ənj How to pronounce scavenge (audio)
scavenged; scavenging
: to collect usable things from what has been discarded

More from Merriam-Webster on scavenge

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!