in the bag


in the bag (idiom)
/ɪn ðə bæɡ/


  • something is certain to be achieved or secured.
  • have something as good as secured or certain.
  • assured of a successful result.
  • virtually secured or achieved.

Example Sentences

  1. The deal was finally in the bag after a few rounds of tough negotiations.
  2. The game was in the bag when the team scored their third goal.
  3. After months of intense campaigning, the politician believed that elections were in the bag.
  4. I have not yet gotten the job, but I believe it’s pretty much in the bag.
  5. Everyone thought that he had the match in the bag, but his opponent suddenly put in a tremendous performance and snatched it away from him.
  6. Having received a lot of praise from the management, he knew that his promotion was in the bag.
  7. Though I feel the contract is in the bag, I’ll wait for confirmation before telling anyone.

Origin and History

The origin of this idiom is rich with historical anecdotes and cultural references, primarily rooted in early 20th century America, with intriguing ties to sports, hunting, and everyday life. While the New York Giants’ superstition in early 20th-century baseball is the most popular and documented origin of “in the bag,” the phrase has found various applications across different contexts and regions. The different theories about its origin are described below.

The Baseball Theory

The most widely accepted origin of “in the bag” comes from American baseball in the 1910s, specifically related to the New York Giants. The Giants had a superstition that if the ball-bag was carried off the field while they were in the lead, the game would be secured in their favor. This belief was particularly highlighted during their remarkable 26-game winning streak in 1916. The practice was recorded in the Ohio newspaper “The Mansfield News” in May 1920, where it was noted that this ritual symbolized that the victory was “in the bag” and thus inevitable.

Australian and New Zealand Context

Interestingly, an earlier version of the phrase with a different meaning existed in Australia and New Zealand around 1900. In this context, “in the bag” referred to a horse set to lose a race, suggesting a predetermined outcome in a negative sense. This usage, documented by linguist Sidney John Baker in 1945, highlights the varied application of the idiom in different regions before it took on its current positive connotation in the United States.

Hunting and Game Theory

Another plausible theory suggests that the idiom originates from hunting practices. Hunters would place their captured birds or game into a bag, symbolizing that the prey was securely obtained. This metaphorical use of “in the bag” to indicate something secured is simple yet fitting, adding a practical layer to the idiom’s evolution.

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