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A person holding a handbag.


From hand +‎ bag. The music genre is named from women dancing around a pile of their handbags in nightclubs. The verb is a reference to Margaret Thatcher's handbag.[1]


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈhændˌbæɡ/, /ˈhæm.bəɡ/
  • (file)


handbag (countable and uncountable, plural handbags)

  1. (mainly Commonwealth) A small bag used by women (or sometimes by men) for carrying various small personal items.
    Synonym: (North America) purse
    Coordinate terms: man-bag, murse
  2. (uncountable, music) Ellipsis of handbag house., a subgenre of house music of the late 1980s, often with booming vocals.
    Synonym: diva house

Derived terms[edit]



handbag (third-person singular simple present handbags, present participle handbagging, simple past and past participle handbagged)

  1. (Britain, transitive, humorous) To attack verbally or subject to criticism, typically used of a woman.
    • 1995, Nicholas Jones, Soundbites and Spin Doctors, London: Cassell, →ISBN, page 202:
      ‘Apparently Birt happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on Sunday afternoon. Virginia saw him and handbagged him. She really was very cross.’
    • 2010, Rachel Johnson, A Diary of the Lady, London: Fig Tree, →ISBN, page 168:
      My favourite part of the whole day was being handbagged by a reader who was quivering with rage and said, ‘You've changed everything!’ and complained about everything, even how easy the crossword was, as Dower filmed every foam-flecked word.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ David Levi-Faur, editor (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Governance, OUP Oxford, →ISBN, page 316:
    Governance appeared to give way to hierarchical and even impositional Government, hence the invention of the new verb “to handbag” (coined because Mrs Thatcher always carried a large handbag and it was said that she could not look at any existing British institution without hitting it with her handbag).