scavenger

Definitions

General Science

  • noun a mammal or bird that feeds on animals which have been killed by lions or other predators
  • noun generally, any organism which feeds on dead animals, dead plants or refuse left unconsumed by other organisms
  • noun a substance added to a chemical reaction or mixture to remove impurities or neutralise something

Origin & History of “scavenger”

A scavenger was originally a scavager – the extra n is the same as that intruded into messenger, passenger, etc. this was acquired from Anglo-Norman scawager, and it started life as a term for an official whose job was to collect taxes levied on foreign merchants. Etymologically it denoted ‘inspector’, for it was derived from the verb escauwer ‘inspect’, which was borrowed from Flemish scauwen ‘look at’, a relative of English show. By the 16th century the scavenger had begun to come down in the world, first to a ‘street-cleaner’ and finally to ‘one who gathers or lives on what others have thrown away’. The verb scavenge was derived from it in the 17th century.
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