After a war is over, many of the belongings of the combatants remain lying on the ground. Many of them dropped during the war. Now either the possessor has died or run away. For a word presenting this action i.e. "getting these from the ground" I made a research and found these words:

Looting, sacking, ransacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging.

But if we see the explanation it gives kind of sense that there was force used in taking these such as the one in "snatching".

What my question is, that:

A thing is now lying on the ground. The owner is not present. He has for instance run away. Now you pick it up. Does any of the ones mentioned above really fit best here?

Is it a kind of thing you've picked up


a kind of thing you've taken forcibly?


3 Answers 3


I would say scavenging is better than looting or the other verbs proposed in the question, which usually mean that goods or possessions are stolen from shops and homes, i.e. they obviously belong to someone. However if the owners have left their belongings behind in a public place, I propose the Lexico definition of


1.2 Search for discarded items or food in (a place)
Poor children helped to support their families by scavenging city streets for food, fuel, and usable materials.

So the sentence could be

Is this something you scavenged?


Looting fits perfectly. It happens during a violent event but does not necessarily involve violence.

looting noun; Cambridge English Dictionary the activity of stealing from shops during a violent event:

There were reports of widespread looting as hooligans stampeded through the city centre.


Well, I have two suggestions:

According to the Oxford Dictionary


Take into one's possession or control by force.
The island was captured by Australian forces in 1914

You can capture prisioners but you can also capture the equipment that the enemy has left in the battlefield.

A quote from the book Daily Life in Civil War America

The string of Confederate victories in the first two years of the war helped supply the Rebel army with captured equipment and conveniences otherwise unavailable to Southern soldiers

You can search using "captured equipment" in Google Books and check yourself. The result contains dozens of war-related books like the one linked above.


Find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost)

Your enemy's lost is your gain. Notice that you can find the possession of the item. It's not mandatory that those item was previously yours.

In my opinion snatch or loot do not fulfill completely the meaning of "getting something abandoned from a battlefield". They represent that the primary goal is stealing, quickly in the first case, while the ones that I have pointed may reflect that after defeating your enemy, when they have fled, you can keep whatever they left.

  • What about 'spoils of war'?
    – xeesid
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 4:54
  • 1
    @xeesid It's a perfect name for the captured equipment. But I thought that you were looking for a verb. "to spoil" doesn't mean exactly gain that equipment but destroy or damage something. I'm not sure if " to despoil" fits either.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 5:46
  • I was looking for a noun.
    – xeesid
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 5:48
  • 1
    @xeesid Sorry, my mistake, but you specified a word representing an action and that's usually a verb. I was trying to offer a word that can replace "getting these from the ground". For naming what you capture, for replacing "these" in that sentence, "spoils of war" is perfect.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 6:16

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