"to acquire by irregular means," 1915, an alteration of dialectal scrunge "to search stealthily, rummage, pilfer" (1909), which is of uncertain origin. OED reports it probably altered from dialectal scringe "to pry about." Or perhaps it is related to (or a variant of) scrouge, scrooge "push, jostle" (1755, also Cockney slang for "a crowd"), which are probably suggestive of screw, squeeze, etc. Scrounge was popularized in the military during World War I, frequently as a euphemism for "steal." Related: Scrounged; scrounger; scrounging.
updated on March 03, 2022