be left holding the bag

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be left holding the bag

To have responsibility or guilt for something foisted upon oneself; to take the blame for something. Primarily heard in US. My partner had been cooking the books for years, but I was left holding the bag when the business collapsed.
See also: bag, holding, left
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

be left holding the bag

AMERICAN, INFORMAL
If you are left holding the bag, you are made responsible for a problem that nobody else wants to deal with. If a project goes bust, investors are left holding the bag. And then he made another deal, and they were left holding the bag. Note: The usual British expression is be left holding the baby.
See also: bag, holding, left
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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