Word of the Day


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1. if an animal scavenges, it eats anything it can find
2. to search through things that other people have thrown away in order to see if there is anything that you want

Origin and usage

The word scavenge is a verb that originates from the noun ‘scavenger’, from the Middle English word ‘scawageour’ meaning ‘a person hired to remove trash from the streets’. Scavenge was first used in English in the 1640s.


The word scavenge refers to the act of searching through rubbish or other people’s discarded belongings with the hope of finding something useful or worth keeping. Animals can also scavenge, meaning they will eat anything that is readily available or easy to get, such as garbage, scraps left behind by other animals, or the flesh of dead animals. Examples of animal scavengers include crabs and vultures.

There is a modern trend in home décor called ‘upcycling’ which involves taking old or discarded items and using them in new ways. This style is sometimes called ‘shabby chic’ or ‘farmhouse rustic’ and has become quite popular in recent years not only because of its unique aesthetic, but also because it can be very affordable — people often scavenge items to be upcycled from the kerbside or skips.

Experts warn, however, that some things are not safe to scavenge from the roadside for the sake of affordable home décor.

Mattresses, box springs, pillows and upholstered furniture can contain mites, allergens and biological contaminants like bacteria and are better left in the bin. Rugs and discarded carpeting should not be scavenged, as they can be filled with dust mites and filth. Children’s items should also be left at the skip, as they were likely discarded for health or safety reasons.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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