Leave someone holding the bag

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To leave someone holding the bag is primarily an American phrase, but it has its roots in Britain. To leave someone holding the bag is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of to leave someone holding the bag, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To leave someone holding the bag means to manipulate a situation so that one person takes all the blame for a negative outcome or all the responsibility. The connotation is that there are others who could rightly be blamed and perhaps are even more blame-worthy, but walk away unscathed. Related phrases are leaves someone the bag, left someone the bag, leaving someone the bag. The idiom to leave someone holding the bag is derived from a much older phrase that was first used in Britain in the 1600s, to give one the bag to hold. In this instance, the bag in question is understood to be empty, and the phrase means to be left with nothing.


If a dealer goes out of business before doing so, you could be left holding the bag for payments on a car you no longer have. (Consumer Reports Magazine)

CFM said it was “just one of many vendors left holding the bag in the wake of FlyGLO’s many millions of dollars of unpaid bills.” (The Advocate)

Nope, this time it’s Prince George’s County left holding the bag with the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday that the search for a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been terminated. (The Baltimore Sun)