What is the origin of the term old bag as a derogatory term for an older lady?
In the UK it is exclusively used to describe females. There appears to be nothing intrinsically feminine about bags. Could it be a corruption of old hag?
Not so much a corruption of old hag as rhyming slang for it. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English quotes Ray Puxley, an expert on Cockney rhyming slang, as suggesting this might be the case.
old bag noun
The Online Etymology Dictionary says it dates from 1924 or earlier but does not give any sources.
I have always thought the "bag" part to be an abbreviation of "baggage", which has long been a pejorative term for a woman, and still is in many parts of the UK and particularly (in my experience) Ireland.
Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1823) confirms this sense of "baggage"
Whether my belief is correct or not, I have found the term in print in 1894, 30 years earlier than etymonline's claim, in a publication called Wales; a national magazine for the English speaking parts of Wales. The passage come in part 11 of a serialisaton of "Enoch Hughes" (originally "Enoc Huws") by Daniel Owen, translated from Welsh by the Hon. Claud Vivian. According to an Amazon reviewer, this translation was from 1892
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