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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Scavenger \Scav"en*ger\, n. [OE. scavager an officer with various duties, originally attending to scavage, fr. OE. & E. scavage. See Scavage, Show, v.] A person whose employment is to clean the streets of a city, by scraping or sweeping, and carrying off the filth. The name is also applied to any animal which devours refuse, carrion, or anything injurious to health.

Scavenger beetle (Zo["o]l.), any beetle which feeds on decaying substances, as the carrion beetle.

Scavenger crab (Zo["o]l.), any crab which feeds on dead animals, as the spider crab.

Scavenger's daughter [corrupt. of Skevington's daughter], an instrument of torture invented by Sir W. Skevington, which so compressed the body as to force the blood to flow from the nostrils, and sometimes from the hands and feet.
--Am. Cyc.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

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 (compare Old High German scouwon, Old English sceawian "to look at, inspect;" see show (v.)).\n

\nIt 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.


n. 1 (context obsolete English) A street sweeper. 2 Someone who scavenges, especially one who searches through rubbish for food or useful things. 3 An animal that feeds on decaying matter such as carrion. 4 (context chemistry English) A substance used to remove impurities from the air or from a solution.

  1. n. a chemical agent that is added to a chemical mixture to counteract the effects of impurities

  2. someone who collects things that have been discarded by others [syn: magpie, pack rat]

  3. any animal that feeds on refuse and other decaying organic matter


Scavenging is both a carnivorous and a herbivorous feeding behavior in which the scavenger feeds on dead animal and plant material present in its habitat. The eating of carrion from the same species is referred to as cannibalism. Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by consuming the dead animal and plant material. Decomposers and detritivores complete this process, by consuming the remains left by scavengers.

Scavenger (chemistry)

A scavenger in chemistry is a chemical substance added to a mixture in order to remove or de-activate impurities and unwanted reaction products, for example oxygen, to make sure that they will not cause any unfavorable reactions. Their use is wide-ranged:

  • In atmospheric chemistry, the most common scavenger is the hydroxyl radical, a short-lived radical produced photolytically in the atmosphere. It is the most important oxidant for carbon monoxide, methane and other hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and most of other contaminants, removing them from the atmosphere.
  • In molecular laser isotope separation, methane is used as a scavenger gas for fluorine atoms.
  • Hydrazine and ascorbic acid are used as oxygen scavenger corrosion inhibitors.
  • Tocopherol and naringenin are bioactive free radical scavengers that act as antioxidants; synthetic catalytic scavengers are their synthetic counterparts
  • Organotin compounds are used in polymer manufacture as a hydrochloric acid scavengers ها.
  • Oxygen scavengers or oxygen absorbers are small sachets or self adhesive labels that are placed inside modified atmosphere packs to help extend product life (notably cooked meats) and help improve product appearance. They work by absorbing any oxygen left in the pack by oxidation of the iron powder contained in the sachet/label.
  • Glutathione in the body scavenges oxidizing free radicals and peroxides and as a thiol nucleophile, attacks dangerous alkylating electrophiles, which may be exogenous toxins or produced in the course of metabolism (e.g. NAPQI from paracetamol).
Scavenger (comics)

The Scavenger is the name of two DC Comics supervillains with no known connections with each other. The first Scavenger was Peter Mortimer, an Aquaman villain who debuted in Aquaman vol. 2 #37 (January 1968), and was created by Henry Boltinoff and Nick Cardy. He is re-introduced in the New 52 series Aquaman by writer Geoff Johns and artist Paul Pelletier.

The second Scavenger first appeared in Superboy #2 (March 1994), and was created by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett.

Scavenger (Transformers)

Scavenger is the name of several fictional characters in the Transformers universes. Scavenger is usually depicted as one of the Constructicons who turns into a construction vehicle and combine into Devastator. However, his name has also been used for a variety of other characters.

Scavenger (disambiguation)

Scavenger is an organism that seeks and feeds on discarded or abandoned material such as carrion or detritus.

Scavenger or Scavenging may also refer to:

Scavenger (album)

Scavenger is the fourth album by The Walkabouts released September 1, 1991 on Sub Pop Records. It received national exposure in the United States through NPR. The album is available in various forms ( CD, cassette, digital download) from and as digital download from iTunes Store in the US and the United Kingdom among others.

Scavenger was produced by Gary Smith and features guest appearances by Brian Eno and Natalie Merchant.

Scavenger (audio drama)

Scavenger is a Big Finish Productions audio drama based on the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who.

Usage examples of "scavenger".

He knew some scavengers and even starship crews who had grown blase about procedures, always moaning at Confederation Astronautics Board operational safety requirements.

There were no scavengers, but Mitchegai grubs, pollywogs, and juvenals all preferentially ate dead material, animal or vegetable, before they would eat live grass.

Because the heads of sauropod dinosaurs in particular were small and the first cervical vertebra also small and the cranio-cervical joint relatively weak, disarticulation by current action and scavengers was common.

They have the same power of changing their shape, of surrounding and swallowing scraps of food, as has the ameba, and are a combination of scavengers and sanitary police.

And when, a half hour later, the coals soaked with water and the half-roasted ankylosaur laid out for the scavengers, they lined up to step through the gate and out into the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Crystal City, Virginia, only he saw Leyster very carefully pick up a rock and slip it in his pocket.

Did you not all agree that the Baldies might not be able to tell the difference between you and the scavengers?

More unfamiliar creatures, symbionts and attendants and scavengers, worked and worried at the silk and at each other.

Between the circulating currents, profuse eelgrass, and marine scavengers, it was a rough environment in which to dredge for a corpse.

They buried the remains of Maku in a clearing and built a fire on the site to keep away scavengers.

All you needed was an orbit twenty kilometres above the Ring plane, where you could watch for the infrared signature of reaction drives as scavenger craft matched orbits with their chosen shell sections.

Most had not been touched by animals or birds, there being an overabundance for scavengers.

I see her and the other pledges buying the Atlantic, carrying blue carnations, setting off on their scavenger hunt.

The difference between the old Parisian and the new New York dinosaurs is the difference between an industrial dinosaur, big and dumb and looming, and the postindustrial dinosaur, swift and smart and a scavenger.

And the scavenger was just an old bum, maybe even a survivor of the reeducation camps.

It seemed a certain tenant on the top floor of the Sailmaker Street house was buying information about the sewers, information only a Scavenger or runner was privy to, so to speak.