This expression is used when you want to reserve or secure the right to do or to have something: he bagged the best chair.

I see this listed as Australian slang but also have noticed references its to use in other countries.

I can see the potential links to capturing something ... but that sense doesn't really completely capture the sense of 'laying claim to something'.

Is the expression as used in this sense largely confined to Australia?

And is it possible to say whether it definitely derives from the 'bagging a tiger' etc sense? And if so, how/when the extension occurred?

  • 2
    So what's your question? Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 9:23
  • Surely this is all related to the expression "got it in the bag". I was surprised how recently this phrase seems to have exploded into popularity though: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Tim Ward
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 12:26

2 Answers 2


Adding to the previous answer:,

  • In AmE, you'd probably shout dibs. In BrE, at least down here in the South, bagsy would do, though it might just be bags. To put this in the verbal form, you can bags or bagsy something, but, as you can see from the OED examples, the spelling is hard to pin down:

    • 1946 B. MARSHALL George Brown's Schooldays xxi. 89 ‘What about you doing the gassing instead of me?’ ‘But I bagsed-I I didn't’, Abinger protested.

    • 1950 B. SUTTON-SMITH Our Street i. 25 [They] would all sit..‘bagzing’. I bagz we go to the zoo.]

    • 1979 I. OPIE Jrnl. 28 Mar. in People in Playground (1993) 129 I'm second, I just baggsied it! 1995 New Musical Express 28 Oct. 28 (caption) Mark Sutherland baggsys a window seat.

    • 1998 C. AHERNE et al. Royle Family Scripts: Ser. 1 (1999) Episode 2. 52 Mam. I think I'll do chicken. Antony. Bagsey me breast.

( Separated by a common language)


It is a colloquial use of bag as a verb, in widespread use in Britain in the mid-twentieth century. One still hears it today, but it has become slightly dated. I can well imagine its continued use in Australia.

The following examples from the OED illustrate that it has two senses, labelled as 6a and 6b. It is the second one which implies an idea of reserving something. It is based on the principle, often with children( but not always) that possession is nine points of the law - bags something and it is yours.

  1. colloq.

a. To seize, catch, take possession of, steal. To add to one's ‘bag’ (bag n. 9). fig.

1818 T. Moore Fudge Family in Paris vi, Who can help to bag a few, When Sidmouth wants a death or two.

1857 T. Hughes Tom Brown's School Days ii. iv. 304 The idea of being led up to the Doctor..for bagging fowls.

1861 F. Max Müller in Sat. Rev. 23 Feb. 197/1 A stray story may thus be bagged in the West-end of London.

1879 Bell's Life in London 28 June 4/2 Whom Mr. Hornby very smartly ‘bagged’ at mid-on.

1936 J. Dos Passos Big Money 72 He was almost bagged by a taxicab crossing the street.

1940 I. Halstead Wings of Victory i. ii. 59 Pilot Officer Elliott..has now bagged two.

1943 C. H. Ward-Jackson Piece of Cake 11 To bag, bagged, to hit by aerial gunfire; shot down.

b. To claim; reserve. Used esp. by children (see quot. 1914 and bags I phr.). colloq.

1914 Concise Oxf. Dict. Add. 1045/2 Bag, (also, in school slang) claim on the ground of being the first to claim (I b., but usu. bags I or bags, first innings!).

1923 J. Manchon Le Slang 56, I'm going to bag the best chair.

1948 R. A. Knox Mass in Slow Motion vii. 68 The other girl bagging the hot-water pipes first.

1968 Listener 29 Feb. 269, I bags be Anthony Wedgwood Benn.

  • It's not spelled out here, certainly not by OED (although you provide what may be considered an example), but doesn't 'I bags ...' demand that bags be an alternative (or even the) spelling of the base form for this sense? Wiktionary gives this spelling. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 10:24
  • @EdwinAshworth In the present tense it is usually I bags the front seat.(OED example I bags be Anthony Wedgwood Benn) In the past one does hear both He bagged the best view and She bagsed the biggest slice. But most commonly I would say it is bags as the present (I bags), bagged in the past, and bag as the infinitive. .
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:02
  • 1
    Surprised no mention of 'bagsy' which is what we used in the playground: 'I bagsy first go on the slide' etc.
    – Marv Mills
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:37
  • 1
    @MarvMills As I suspected bagsy was a later development. It has an entry in the OED but the earliest serious example is from 1979. My schooldays started in 1949, and I tend to speak for the post-war generation.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 17:16
  • @WS2 1979? Really! I started senior school in 1974 and I am convinced we were using 'Bagsy' at that time. By the time of 1979 I would not have been 'bagsying' anything for fear of pointing at me and laughing :)
    – Marv Mills
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 9:06

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