U.S. History. a Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War and became active in Republican politics, especially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction.
a politician who takes up residence in a place and runs for office without having strong ties to the area.
any opportunistic or exploitive outsider: Our bus company has served this town for years, but now the new one run by carpetbaggers from the city is stealing our business.

Origin of carpetbagger

1865–70, Americanism; carpetbag + -er1; so called because they came South carrying their belongings in carpetbags
Related formscar·pet·bag·ger·y, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for carpetbaggers

ingrate, bounder, go-getter, timeserver, trimmer

Examples from the Web for carpetbaggers

Contemporary Examples of carpetbaggers

  • And you had the carpetbaggers and all that, but as occupations go, it wasn't so brutal.

    The Daily Beast logo
    More South-Bashing!

    Michael Tomasky

    May 28, 2013

  • Carpetbaggers already in situ to cash in on the wasted and exhausted city.

    The Daily Beast logo
    I Watched Iraq Fall

    Janine di Giovanni

    March 17, 2013

Historical Examples of carpetbaggers

  • Neither were all the class designated as carpetbaggers dishonourable men.

  • The other Federal departments were in similar difficulties, and at last women and "carpetbaggers" were appointed.

    The Sequel of Appomattox

    Walter Lynwood Fleming

  • Generally the blacks showed no desire for mixed schools unless urged to it by the carpetbaggers.

    The Sequel of Appomattox

    Walter Lynwood Fleming

  • City and county taxes, where carpetbaggers were in control, increased in the same way.

    The Sequel of Appomattox

    Walter Lynwood Fleming

  • There were a few thousand carpetbaggers in each State, with, at first, a much larger number of scalawags.

    The Sequel of Appomattox

    Walter Lynwood Fleming

British Dictionary definitions for carpetbaggers



a politician who seeks public office in a locality where he has no real connections
British a person who makes a short-term investment in a mutual savings or life-assurance organization in order to benefit from free shares issued following the organization's conversion to a public limited company
US a Northern White who went to the South after the Civil War to profit from Reconstruction
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

Word Origin and History for carpetbaggers



also carpet-bagger, 1868, American English, scornful appellation for Northerners who went South after the fall of the CSA seeking private gain or political advancement. The name is based on the image of men arriving with all their worldly goods in a big carpetbag. Sense later extended to any opportunist from out of the area.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

carpetbaggers in Culture


Northerners who went to the South after the Civil War to take part in Reconstruction governments, when persons who had supported the Confederacy were not allowed to hold public office (see Fourteenth Amendment). Some of them arrived, according to legend, carrying only one carpetbag, which symbolized their lack of permanent interest in the place they pretended to serve.


Carpetbagger is still a general term for nonresident politicians who exploit their districts.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.