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scavenger

Ever catch a raccoon in your garbage can? The critter is a scavenger, digging around for whatever it can find to eat. In fact, anything or anybody searching for and collecting what others have tossed away is a scavenger.

Originally the Middle English word skavager referred to a customs collector who collected scavage, or a toll on foreign goods brought in to sell. In the late 14th Century, scavengers were people hired to clean the streets. Later, the word was used for animals who ate decaying creatures. Later still, the "scavenger hunt" became popular as a game where people have to find items on a list. Anyone who hunts for and collects castoffs could be called a scavenger.

Definitions of scavenger
  1. noun
    someone who collects things that have been discarded by others
    synonyms: magpie, pack rat
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    type of:
    hoarder
    a person who accumulates things and hides them away for future use
  2. noun
    any animal that feeds on refuse and other decaying organic matter
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    types:
    bottom-feeder
    a scavenger that feeds low on the food chain
    type of:
    animal, animate being, beast, brute, creature, fauna
    a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
  3. noun
    a chemical agent that is added to a chemical mixture to counteract the effects of impurities
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    type of:
    chemical agent
    an agent that produces chemical reactions
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