scavenger

play
noun scav·en·ger \ ˈska-vən-jər \

Definition of scavenger

1 chiefly British :a person employed to remove dirt and refuse from streets
2 :one that scavenges: such as
a :a garbage collector
b :a junk collector
c :a chemically active substance acting to make innocuous or remove an undesirable substance
3 :an organism that typically feeds on refuse or carrion

scavenger was our Word of the Day on 05/05/2014. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of scavenger from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scavenger.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

You might guess that "scavenger" is a derivative of "scavenge," but the reverse is actually true; "scavenger" is the older word, first appearing in English in 1530, and the back-formation "scavenge" came into English in the mid-17th century. "Scavenger" is an alteration of the earlier "scavager," itself from Anglo-French scawageour, meaning "collector of scavage." In medieval times, "scavage" was a tax levied by towns and cities on goods put up for sale by nonresidents, in order to provide resident merchants with a competitive advantage. The officers in charge of collecting this tax were later made responsible for keeping streets clean, and that's how "scavenger" came to refer to a public sanitation employee in Great Britain before acquiring its current sense referring to a person who salvages discarded items.

Origin and Etymology of scavenger

alteration of earlier scavager, from Anglo-French scawageour collector of scavage (duty collected from non-resident street merchants), from skawage scavage, from Middle French dialect (Flanders) escauver to inspect, from Middle Dutch scouwen; akin to Old English scēawian to look at — more at show


SCAVENGER Defined for Kids

scavenger

play
noun scav·en·ger \ ˈska-vən-jər \

Definition of scavenger for Students

1 :a person who picks over junk or garbage for useful items
2 :an animal (as a vulture) that feeds on dead or decaying material


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