Leave Holding the Bag

Also: Be Left Holding the Bag

Meaning of Idiom ‘Leave (someone) Holding the Bag’

To leave someone holding the bag is to abandon them so that they are forced to bear the responsibility for something or the consequences of your actions. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. ,2Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.

Usage

This idiom is often put as ‘be left holding the bag’ as in, “When everybody decided to take off early, I was left holding the bag. It took me hours to clean up and close the store by myself.”

Examples Of Use

“He has a long history of running businesses into the ground and then leaving others holding the bag.”

“I don’t appreciate being left to hold the bag when you feel like taking a golf holiday!”

Origin

This idiom comes from an earlier idiom ‘to give one the bag (to hold),’ dating from the 1500s. This idiom alluded to being left with an empty bag while others have absconded with the valuable contents 3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. ,4Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.

A version close to the modern idiom was used by Thomas Jefferson in 1793:

“…if the bankruptcies of England proceed…she will leave Spain the bag to hold.” 5Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.

More Idioms Starting with L

More Bag Idioms

More Hold Idioms

More Leave Idioms

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2, 4, 5. Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.