bag (n.)

"small sack," c. 1200, bagge, probably from Old Norse baggi "pack, bundle," or a similar Scandinavian source. OED rejects connection to other Germanic words for "bellows, belly" as without evidence and finds a Celtic origin untenable. In some senses perhaps from Old French bague, which is also from Germanic.

As disparaging slang for "woman" it dates from 1924 in modern use (but various specialized senses of this are much older, and compare baggage). Meaning "person's area of interest or expertise" is 1964, from African-American vernacular, from jazz sense of "category," probably via notion of putting something in a bag. Meaning "fold of loose skin under the eye" is by 1867. Related: bags.

To be left holding the bag (and presumably nothing else), "cheated, swindled" is attested by 1793. Many figurative senses, such as the verb meaning "to kill game" (1814) and its colloquial extension to "catch, seize, steal" (1818) are from the notion of the game bag (late 15c.) into which the product of the hunt was placed. This also probably explains modern slang in the bag "assured, certain" (1922, American English).

To let the cat out of the bag "reveal the secret" is from 1760. The source is probably the French expression Acheter chat en poche "buy a cat in a bag," which is attested in 18c. French and explained in Bailey's "Universal Etymological English Dictionary" (1736), under the entry for To buy a pig in a poke as "to buy a Thing without looking at it, or enquiring into the Value of it." (Similar expressions are found in Italian and German; and in English, Wyclif (late 14c.) has To bye a catte in þo sakke is bot litel charge). Thus to let the cat out of the bag would be to inadvertently reveal the hidden truth of a matter one is attempting to pass off as something better or different, which is in line with the earliest uses in English.

Sir Joseph letteth the cat out of the bag, and sheweth principles inimical to the cause of true philosophy, by wishing to make great men Fellows, instead of wise men ["Peter Pindar," "Peter's Prophecy," 1788]

bag (v.)

early 15c., "to swell out like a bag;" also "to put (money, etc.) in a bag," from bag (n.). Earliest verbal sense was "to be pregnant" (c. 1400). Of clothes, "to hang loosely," 1824. Meaning "to kill game" (1814) and its colloquial extension to "catch, seize, steal" (1818) are from the notion of the game bag (late 15c.) into which the product of the hunt was placed. To bag school "play hookey" is by 1934. Related: Bagged; bagging.

updated on October 31, 2021

Definitions of bag from WordNet
bag (n.)
a flexible container with a single opening;
he stuffed his laundry into a large bag
bag (n.)
the quantity of game taken in a particular period (usually by one person);
his bag included two deer
bag (n.)
a place that the runner must touch before scoring;
he scrambled to get back to the bag
Synonyms: base
bag (n.)
a container used for carrying money and small personal items or accessories (especially by women);
she reached into her bag and found a comb
Synonyms: handbag / pocketbook / purse
bag (n.)
the quantity that a bag will hold;
he ate a large bag of popcorn
Synonyms: bagful
bag (n.)
a portable rectangular container for carrying clothes;
he carried his small bag onto the plane with him
Synonyms: traveling bag / travelling bag / grip / suitcase
bag (n.)
an ugly or ill-tempered woman;
he was romancing the old bag for her money
Synonyms: old bag
bag (n.)
mammary gland of bovids (cows and sheep and goats);
Synonyms: udder
bag (n.)
an activity that you like or at which you are superior;
his bag now is learning to play golf
Synonyms: cup of tea / dish
bag (v.)
capture or kill, as in hunting;
bag a few pheasants
bag (v.)
hang loosely, like an empty bag;
bag (v.)
bulge out; form a bulge outward, or be so full as to appear to bulge;
Synonyms: bulge
bag (v.)
take unlawfully;
Synonyms: pocket
bag (v.)
put into a bag;
The supermarket clerk bagged the groceries
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.