Definition of scavenger in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈskavənjər/


1An animal that feeds on carrion, dead plant material, or refuse.
Example sentences
  • Experts on the red kite - a spectacular bird with a wingspan of up to 6ft - say it is essentially a scavenger which feeds on carrion rather than attacking sheep or game birds.
  • There were the small herbivores and scavengers and hunters scuttling in the undergrowth, hiding from the larger predators who occasioned down from the heights.
  • The buzz of flies permeated the air and the scavengers of meat fed on the dead.
1.1A person who searches for and collects discarded items.
Example sentences
  • Only scavengers came regularly to collect discarded plastic and steel.
  • The charred remains of a body was discovered by scavengers searching for scrap metal yesterday morning.
  • He is a scavenger who collects waste paper.
forager, rummager, grubber;
historical ragpicker
rare mudlark
1.2British archaic A person employed to clean the streets.
1.3 Chemistry A substance that reacts with and removes particular molecules, groups, etc. 4-aminosalicylic acid is not an effective free radical scavenger
More example sentences
  • Whenever the antioxidants are present, antioxidant enzyme activity and scavengers of the free radical will be induced to prevent the oxidative damage.
  • Free radical scavengers, however, do not completely prevent the loss of diaphragmatic force associated with delayed injury, indicating that other mechanisms are involved.
  • Low levels of natural antioxidants in pancreatitis indicate their increased utilization as scavengers of free radicals.


Mid 16th century: alteration of earlier scavager, from Anglo-Norman French scawager, from Old Northern French escauwer 'inspect', from Flemish scauwen 'to show'. The term originally denoted an officer who collected scavage, a toll on foreign merchants' goods offered for sale in a town, later a person who kept the streets clean.

  • The earliest form of scavenger was scavager, an official who collected scavage, a toll on foreign merchants' goods, found from the 15th century. Scavagers eventually also acquired the duty of keeping the streets of their town clean. In the mid 16th century people began to insert an -n- in the word and scavenger was born, in the same way as messenger and passenger, both also words that started out life without an -n-. In time the municipal officials lost their more important duties and a scavenger became simply a street cleaner and then a person who collects anything usable from discarded waste.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: scav·eng·er

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