hold the bag(redirected from they held the bag)
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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
hold the bagInformal
1. To be left with empty hands.
2. To be forced to assume total responsibility when it ought to have been shared.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer