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 confusedbriefcase handbag pocketbook purse valise wallet
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for handbag

Contemporary Examples of handbag

Historical Examples of handbag

  • 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 handbag

(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

Word Origin and History for handbag

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper