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[hand-bag] /ˈhændˌbæg/
a bag or box of leather, fabric, plastic, or the like, held in the hand or carried by means of a handle or strap, commonly used by women for holding money, toilet articles, small purchases, etc.
Origin of handbag
First recorded in 1860-65; hand + bag
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for handbag
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Slowly she untied the scarf from the door and placed it in her handbag.

  • She packed into a handbag a few necessary things with some heirlooms of her own.

    Bride of the Mistletoe James Lane Allen
  • She took the two threatening letters from her handbag and gave them to the detective.

    The Film of Fear Arnold Fredericks
  • Her hands shook so that she could scarcely open her handbag.

    Rim o' the World B. M. Bower
  • In the third act one of the characters has to take his trousers out of a handbag.


    Christopher Morley
British Dictionary definitions for handbag


Also called bag, (US and Canadian) purse, (chiefly US) pocketbook. a woman's small bag carried to contain personal articles
a small suitcase that can be carried by hand
a commercial style of House music
Word Origin
(for sense 3) C20: humorous allusion to the trend for groups of women to dance round their handbags in discos, nightclubs, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for handbag

also hand-bag, 1854, from hand (n.) + bag (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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