AskDefine | Define scavenge

Dictionary Definition



1 clean refuse from; "Scavenge a street"
2 collect discarded or refused material; "She scavenged the garbage cans for food" [syn: salvage]
3 feed on carrion or refuse; "hyenas scavenge"
4 remove unwanted substances from [syn: clean]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. to collect and remove refuse, or to search through refuse for useful material
  2. to remove unwanted material from something, especially to purify molten metal by removing impurities
  3. to expel the exhaust gases from the cylinder of an internal combustion engine, and draw in air for the next cycle
  4. to feed on carrion or refuse

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Scavengers are animals that consume already dead animals (carrion). Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by contributing to the decomposition of dead animal remains. Decomposers complete this process, by consuming the remains left by scavengers.
Well known scavengers include vultures, burying beetles, blowflies, yellowjackets, and raccoons. Many large carnivores that hunt regularly--such as hyenas and lions--will scavenge if given the chance.
Animals which consume feces, such as dung beetles, are also referred to as scavengers. Animals which primarily consume dead plants (litter) are referred to as detritivores.
In 2004, Dennis Bramble and Daniel Lieberman proposed that early Homo were scavengers that used stone tools to harvest meat off carcasses and to open bones. They proposed that humans specialized in long-distance running to compete with other scavengers in reaching carcasses[2]. It has been suggested that such an adaptation ensured a food supply that made large brains possible.


  • Smith TM, Smith RL (2006) Elements of Ecology. Sixth edition. Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco, CA.
  • Chase, et al. The Scavenger Handbook. Bramblewood Press, Santa Barbara, CA.
scavenge in Aragonese: Carnotaire
scavenge in German: Aasfresser
scavenge in Spanish: Carroñero
scavenge in Basque: Sarraskijale
scavenge in French: Nécrophagie
scavenge in Croatian: Strvinar
scavenge in Ido: Manj-kadavro
scavenge in Icelandic: Hrææta
scavenge in Italian: Saprofagia
scavenge in Hebrew: אוכלי נבלות
scavenge in Dutch: Aaseter
scavenge in Norwegian: Åtseleter
scavenge in Polish: Padlinożercy
scavenge in Serbian: Лешинар
scavenge in Swedish: Asätare

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bleach, bowdlerize, clean, clean out, clean up, cleanse, clear out, delouse, depurate, deterge, dry-clean, dust, dust off, expurgate, freshen, lustrate, purge, purify, reform, spruce, steam-clean, sweep out, sweeten, tidy, whiten, wipe, wipe off, wipe out, wipe up
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