What is cannibalization?
Cannibalization has many definitions, but one of the simplest is
to define it as taking serviceable parts from a thing that does not
work to use them on another thing that does not work to make one
thing that does work. The term probably came into
popular use during WW2 when clever, mechanically adept GI's used
their skills to keep equipment damaged in battle running. The
somewhat grisly origin of the term probably comes from the fact
that when a cannibal eats another human being, he may be said to be
using serviceable parts from one person to keep another person
(himself) running. The process only works on things that have
For a simple example, let's say you have two cars of the same
model and year, but neither runs, but each for a different reason.
One car may have a bad alternator and a good starter, while the
other car has a bad starter but a good alternator. By taking the
good part from either car and replacing the bad part in the other
car, you can get one of the two cars running. You have
"cannibalized" one car to make the other one work. You can extend
this concept further by, say, taking the good tires from the
cannibalized car and replacing the worn tires on the car that now
starts. The process can be repeated almost indefinitely until you
have run out of good parts to replace bad ones.
Another meaning is the process of eating one's own kind.
For other excellent examples and definitions of cannibalization,
see related links.