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I am trying to write a short story in English to practice my English. I remember there's a word for "searching for leftovers in a destroyed minimart in a zombie infested world" which in my memory sounds like "scouring for food" or "scourging for food" or something, but looking at google's definition of both words, those don't look like what I'm looking for.

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  • I guess it depends what "zombie infested world" source you are referring to, it might help.
    – gattsbr
    Jul 12 at 13:42
  • dumpster diving, too. :) Probably nothing left there, though.
    – Lambie
    Jul 12 at 22:51
  • Not a single word, but "picking the bones of the minimart" implies that the minimart has been thoroughly looted already and the survivors are getting whatever scraps are left. Jul 13 at 22:10
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The word you are looking for is scavenging

  • To collect by searching through refuse
  • To search through (a place or container) for useful items.
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  • Isn't there a more precise word? One where the item to be collected is leftovers and the place to be searched is a destroyed minimart in a zombie infested world ? Scavenge applies so broadly, but OP's needs are... very specific...
    – Z4-tier
    Jul 13 at 15:24
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    @Z4-tier no, there's no word which is that specific.
    – Kat
    Jul 13 at 15:28
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    Related: Forage. This is usually for wider locations, especially outdoors, especially when it's for resources needed for survival. "Foraging around town" would work in a post-apocalyptic world.
    – ikegami
    Jul 13 at 16:57
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    @kat - Your comment should be the answer. There is no word that specific, why on earth would there be? And if there were, surely it would be a German word.
    – Glen Yates
    Jul 13 at 20:12
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It sounds like you're looking for scrounging

To forage about in an effort to acquire something at no cost

So you could write

scrounging for leftovers in a destroyed minimart in a zombie infested world

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    Other options are "scavenging" or the ever-popular "looting" Jul 11 at 6:22
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    @SoronelHaetir "looting" implies to me that there is an active claim to the property. So, if the owner is still alive and occupying the minimart or has taken steps to secure it that the character is circumventing, I would say that's looting. But if the store is almost certainly abandoned, it would seem more like scavenging to me.
    – PC Luddite
    Jul 11 at 15:59
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    @plocks Pillaging is like looting - both assume someone actively owns the place and that their stuff is being taken by force. Pillaging implies more of a wartime act where overwhelming force rolls in and straight up robs the place under threat of violence. Looting implies more taking advantage of an opportunity to steal without necessarily being an act of violence - at least against other people. Looting is a crime of opportunism and happens in an environment where the odds of getting caught are low, for whatever reason.
    – J...
    Jul 11 at 17:14
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    "Scrounging" means you are trying to get another person to give you something, which isn't the correct idea. The word you want is "scavenging" IMO.
    – alephzero
    Jul 11 at 17:22
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    @alephzero That is one meaning of the word, but it's not the only one. "Scrounging" doesn't have to involve another person (the link I provided has examples of that). BTW, I agree with Rand al'Thor; while "scavenging" is probably not the specific word OP is thinking of, it's a good option. In fact, I was rather hoping SoronelHaetir would have added that as an answer, when they first suggested it. If no one adds that as an answer, I'll just go ahead and add it to my own.
    – cigien
    Jul 11 at 17:39
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They could also scour a site for supplies, although this is a less-common word than scavenging or scrounging.

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    I would add that "scouring a site" usually implies searching every last nook and cranny, which might or might not be appropriate to the scene, while "scavenging" and so forth are more generic and could include quickly grabbing the easy loot while ignoring everything else.
    – MichaelS
    Jul 13 at 7:08
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Looting is often used to describe this in everyday usage, for example when people break into shops during a riot. It's often also used in post-apocalyptic fiction for the same thing too.

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    Looting specifically means to steal. Looting also sounds nothing like what the question is asking for.
    – gattsbr
    Jul 12 at 13:23
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    @gattsbr Yes, looting means to steal, and particularly stripping resources during a time of conflict - which is precisely what the OP is saying his character will be doing. If you steal from a damaged minimart during a riot today, you are looting, and you will be called a looter. That's what the word means, and that's how it's used. So it means exactly what you say, and it exactly answers what the question is asking for. In post-apocalyptic fiction, other words may be used instead because it's less clear that you're stealing when the business owners are dead, but it's still a valid option.
    – Graham
    Jul 12 at 13:39
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    precisely? "sounds like scouring or scourging" precisely does not sound like "looting". To assume that it is a time of conflict, and to assume the business owners are dead, is pretty much the opposite of precisely.
    – gattsbr
    Jul 12 at 13:51
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    @gattsbr: The word is used quite commonly for this exact circumstance in my experience. The character doesn't own the goods, hasn't verified the goods aren't already owned, and is taking advantage of the circumstances rather than doing honest work to obtain the goods. Also, "looting" at this point often takes on the simple meaning of "collecting stuff from dead enemies or the environment" in video games and similar, so it's reasonable characters used to those contexts would use this definition in an apocalypse setting. It doesn't sound like the word OP was thinking of, but it works just fine.
    – MichaelS
    Jul 13 at 7:04
  • "looting" carries a negative connotation that I don't think fits with what OP is looking for. Scavenging or scrounging, depending on how desperate the characters are, are much better choices
    – Kevin
    Jul 13 at 13:38
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A general term meaning looking for food, without the specifics of a location, would be foraging. Foraging: (of a person or animal) search widely for food or provisions.

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    I would say this applies more to finding food in the wilderness, e.g. wild nuts and berries or other naturally growing plants, less so to finding it in a minimart, though it can still be used in that sense. Jul 12 at 16:33
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    @DarrelHoffman: While I would typically agree, I think this word is particularly meaningful in an apocalypse setting. After zombies, Skynet, aliens, or whatever fantasy devices suit you have cleared most of the humans from the planet, a minimart is a naturally-occurring wilderness area to the people who come afterwards. By using a word like "foraging", you can give the explicit sense that the survivors have taken to thinking of abandoned buildings as just part of the landscape, contributing to the surreal atmosphere one might want to convey.
    – MichaelS
    Jul 13 at 7:12
  • Foraging was my first thought as well. I agree that I wouldn't typically use it for looking for food in a civilized context except in a joking sense ("What are you doing in the kitchen at this hour?" "Foraging!"). But it does seem appropriate in an apocalyptic situation.
    – fool4jesus
    Jul 13 at 16:12
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An even less common word is gleaning which means to "collect leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested." In this instance, your protagonist is gleaning the leftovers after the minimart had already been looted at least once.

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There are a number of words that you might use, regardless of which one you ran across previously. Each will have different implications.

At the top of our list should probably be "scavenge", which indicates trying to find something of value in a location where what might mostly be found is mostly leftovers. Whichever other words we find, "scavenge" is a good start, one that fits the definition requested. So, using "scavenge" as a starting point, let's take a look at synonyms.

Here are some possibilities:

  • salvage, but this has little or no implication of violence or possible danger
  • scour, implies a thorough examination or working over of a location or place
  • glean, coming from agricultural and/or rural gathering roots, 'going over a location to find remaining resources after there has already been a harvest'
  • fossick, this is Australian slang, possibly from Cornish (England) mining dialectic usage, similar to glean, but from a mining perspective
  • scrounge, generally used when other people are the source, or in control of the resource, as in cadging or wheedling
  • forage, closer to 'harvesting', but of a wild or undomesticated resource

There are some words that are more closely defined by theft (which requires an active and current owner) or violent and forceful acquisition (could be theft, or wartime activity)

  • pilfer
  • loot
  • pillage

You will find a number of other possibilities at the thesaurus previously linked.

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  • +1. I'm pretty sure "scavenge" is the word that OP is looking for, if for no other reason than it is the most used of the related terms in the "post-apocalyptic" genre's lexicon, at least in my experience.
    – sharur
    Jul 13 at 23:05
  • @sharur I quite agee with you! However, there are other considerations! One, we might be wrong. And, we have little feedback to tell us so, one way or the other. Next, we are in a "Learners" forum, so my focus was not on a particular word, per se, but how to find a particular word, and/or how to find an appropriate word to express a particular meaning.
    – Mark G B
    Jul 14 at 2:04
  • @sharur Also, while the question seemed clear enough, it is entirely possible, given its brevity, that our impression of clarity was mistaken. Thus, it seemed to me to be the best course, not to guess at the word the OP previously found, but to provide a rational source (and alternatives), so that the OP could find appropriate words themselves.
    – Mark G B
    Jul 14 at 2:05

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