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
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 the early 16th century, 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.
My uncle, a habitual scavenger and clever handyman, found a broken exercise machine left on the curb and fixed it so that it works again.
"The 34-year-old scavenger has had to work longer and harder over the past year, underlining how a drastic decline in scrap metal and commodity prices has hurt even the poor who collect discarded metal to sell to scrap yards." — Brendan O'Brien, Reuters, 4 July 2016
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a term for an activist who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources: _ r _ e _ a _.VIEW THE ANSWER
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