Old bag

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Arabus, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. Arabus Senior Member

    United States

    What is the literal sense of this phrase? And what other phrases are there that describe a nasty old lady? No offense to anybody ...

  2. Trisia

    Trisia mod de viață


    You haven't exactly given us a question. Please tell us where you found this, and check that you spelled it correctly.

    I've never heard "old bag" used to refer to an old lady. Old hag, yes. (see definition 2 in the link)

    EDIT:Well, seems I'm learning a lot of new words these days :) (thank you, Nunty, for the WR dictionary link, too)
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2008
  3. Arabus Senior Member

    United States
    Maybe you answered my question unwillingly. Maybe "bag" is altered from "hag?"
  4. The literal sense of "old bag" (which is what you asked for) is something like "a well-used receptacle, made of a soft material, designed for carrying things in".

    But I think you require the figurative meaning, as used in relation to an old woman. In that sense, "old bag" is merely an insult. It isn't a description. It doesn't necessarily mean "nasty old lady". It's intended to demean a woman who is past her prime.
  5. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    These links from the Resources section of the sticky at the top of the English Only forum index page might be useful:

    The Online Etymology Dictionary – The basic sources of this work include the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition) and Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang:

    Word Detective – For more etymology:
  6. Trisia

    Trisia mod de viață

    Actually, I found Nun-T's first link quite useful. Here's the entry on "bag":

    Perhaps someone else knows more, we can wait :)
  7. Alcalaina Senior Member

    English - UK
    "Old bag" can be an insult but it is also used in the UK as a term of affection to a female of any age - for example "Tell that silly old bag I don't want her help".
  8. katie_here Senior Member


    It does say the expression is used, but not why. I think that explanation would be almost incomprehensible to someone who is not very good with English. I had to think twice about what it was explaining.

    I would like to offer my explanation but it would only be surmising.
  9. Yes, that's a subtlety that applies to almost any insult in BrE.
  10. Arabus Senior Member

    United States
    Actually it applies to most languages I know of ... In my place, they would say "where have you been you ###@@#$#$" as an affectionate phrase for a friend whom you haven't seen for some time ...
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2008
  11. Nymeria Senior Member

    English - Barbadian/British/educated in US universities blend
    That's an awfully long swear word...
  12. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    This is very familiar to me. It's an insult to a woman using a very vulnerable area - her age.

    Here are two:

    1. She's a dried up old hag.

    2. She's a wrinkled old bitch.

    See how these two also strike at a woman's loss of youth and sexuality? If you want to hurt someone or insult someone, these would do it.

    Also, in very specialized situations, they can be used as silly jokes to a woman, but you'd better make sure the people involved really care about each other and both know it's just a joke.

    Otherwise...these are all just plain mean.

    I have known some nasty women in my life who deserve these thoughts, too, though.

  13. Arabus Senior Member

    United States
    Thank you... great answer ...

    Actually I asked the question just in order to translate a foreign word. I have no intention of calling anybody an old bag nor a dried up hag.

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