Carpetbagger is an American expression that came into use during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. Carpetbagger is a compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. Compound words are usually composed of two nouns, or of an adjective and a noun. New compound words usually consist of two, separate words, and are called open compound words. Midway through their evolution, compound words may acquire hyphens between the two words. When a compound becomes a closed compound word, which consists of two words joined without any hyphen or space, it has usually been in use for a long time. The advent of the internet has sped up the process of becoming a closed compound word. Understanding words that are compound words will expand one’s basic English vocabulary. We will examine the meaning of the word carpetbagger, its etymology, and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

A carpetbagger is someone who moves into an area to take advantage of the locals and acquire power, money and prestige. A carpetbagger is an outsider who many believe does not have the credentials to seize power or prestige in a given area. For instance, an American politician who moves into a new state in order to run for office, usually because he can not win political office in his home state, is considered a carpetbagger, and the process is referred to as carpetbagging. The compound word carpetbagger is derived from the word carpet, meaning an area rug, and bagger, meaning someone carrying a bag or suitcase. In the late1860s-1870s, it is purported that many Northern opportunists moved to the South in the United States to acquire land, money, and power from the greatly weakened Southerners. These opportunists carried all their worldly goods in a carrying bag made from a carpet, so they were known as carpetbaggers. There is some discussion today about how we should perceive these Northerners. Some believe that they were simply disenfranchised people who made a new start in a place with abundant opportunities, rather than power-hungry vultures swooping into a ravaged area. In any case, it is still an insult to refer to someone as a carpetbagger.


Park was arrested and cited in October 2018 after police were told that a man and woman were removing campaign signs calling her a “carpetbagger.” (The Orange County Register)

Much has been made of how implausible that record would have seemed back when he first arrived in the south, not just a carpetbagger but a former student radical with a reputation for something other than constancy and stoicism of service. (The Southland Times)

Our argument was that Red’s, a beloved, affordable and thoroughly authentic institution since its 1970s inception, should have a bigger following than Pier 39 carpetbagger Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

For those carpetbagging gamblers without a car, Hoboken Terminal—which couldn’t be closer to the state border without falling into the Hudson River—is a mecca. (Esquire Magazine)

Leave a Comment