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See more synonyms for scavenge on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), scav·enged, scav·eng·ing.
  1. to take or gather (something usable) from discarded material.
  2. to cleanse of filth, as a street.
  3. to expel burnt gases from (the cylinder of an internal-combustion engine).
  4. Metallurgy. to purify (molten metal) by introducing a substance that will combine chemically with impurities.
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verb (used without object), scav·enged, scav·eng·ing.
  1. to act as a scavenger.
  2. (of an engine or cylinder) to become scavenged of burnt gases.
  3. to search, especially for food.
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Origin of scavenge

First recorded in 1635–45; back formation from scavenger
Related formsun·scav·enged, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scavenging

skulk, slink, lurk, tramp, stroll, roam, scavenge, patrol, hunt, sneak, range, stalk, snake, rove, cruise, steal

Examples from the Web for scavenging

Contemporary Examples of scavenging

Historical Examples of scavenging

  • One of these scavenging birds was seen to be carrying a long object, like an eel, in its mouth.

    On the Seashore

    R. Cadwallader Smith

  • Obstruction of the contractor or local authority in scavenging the streets or in removal of refuse, 5, or less (s. 42).

  • They had, in order to be consistent and to talk big about morality, to include novels in their scheme of scavenging.

    Books and Persons

    Arnold Bennett

  • They do scavenging work, and eat the refuse food thrown away by people from the leaf plate after a meal.

  • It is a familiar figure in most of the towns and villages where its scavenging is of the greatest use.

British Dictionary definitions for scavenging


  1. to search for (anything usable) among discarded material
  2. (tr) to purify (a molten metal) by bubbling a suitable gas through it. The gas may be inert or may react with the impurities
  3. to clean up filth from (streets, etc)
  4. chem to act as a scavenger for (atoms, molecules, ions, radicals, etc)
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for scavenging



1640s, back-formation from scavenger. Related: Scavenged; scavenging.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper