hold the bag

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hold the bag

To have responsibility or guilt for something foisted upon oneself; to take the blame for something. My partner had been cooking the books for years, but I was left holding the bag when the business collapsed.
See also: bag, hold

hold the bag

Informal
1. To be left with empty hands.
2. To be forced to assume total responsibility when it ought to have been shared.
See also: bag, hold

hold(ing) the bag, to/be left

Abandoned by others, left in the lurch to carry the responsibility or blame. The implication in this expression, used since the eighteenth century, is that one is left holding an empty bag while others have made off with the presumably valuable contents. The phrase has often been used in international relations—for example, by Thomas Jefferson (“She will leave Spain the bag to hold,” Writings, 1793), and on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II, by Clare Boothe (Luce) in Europe in the Spring (1940): “When bigger and better bags are made, America will hold them.”
See also: left
References in classic literature ?
This took a very long time to manage, though Alice held the bag open very carefully, because the Knight was so VERY awkward in putting in the dish: the first two or three times that he tried he fell in himself instead.
There, while Miss Jenny held the bag, the old man locked the house door, and handed over the key to him; who at once retired with the same.
Tarzan pushed Numa forward until his head was almost in the aperture, then as though it were an afterthought, he turned quickly and, taking the machine gun from the parapet, placed it in the bottom of the hole close at hand, after which he turned again to Numa, and with his knife quickly cut the garters that held the bags upon his front paws.
"They threw pepper powder on our faces and I closed my eyes and held the bag containing Dhs400,000," the Chinese woman said.
The defendant held the bag open while the woman put the bottles in.
My 8-year-old son was standing next to me when I opened one of the ziplock bags; I held the bag in front of him and said, take a smell.