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Old English pursa "little bag made of leather," especially for carrying money, from Medieval Latin bursa "leather purse" (source also of Old French borse, 12c., Modern French bourse; cf. bourse), from Late Latin bursa, variant of byrsa "hide," from Greek byrsa "hide, leather." Change of b- to p- perhaps by influence of Old English pusa, Old Norse posi "bag."
Meaning "woman's handbag" is attested from 1951. Meaning "sum of money collected as a prize in a race, etc.," is from 1640s. Purse-strings, figurative for "control of money," is from early 15c. Purse-snatcher first attested 1902 (earlier purse-picker, 1540s). The notion of "drawn together by a thong" also is behind purse-net (c.1400).
c.1300, "put in a purse;" c.1600 as "draw together and wrinkle" (as the strings of a money bag), from purse (n.). Related: Pursed; pursing.
(1.) Gr. balantion, a bag (Luke 10:4; 22:35, 36). (2.) Gr. zone, properly a girdle (Matt. 10:9; Mark 6:8), a money-belt. As to our Lord's sending forth his disciples without money in their purses, the remark has been made that in this "there was no departure from the simple manners of the country. At this day the farmer sets out on excursions quite as extensive without a para in his purse; and a modern Moslem prophet of Tarshisha thus sends forth his apostles over this identical region. No traveller in the East would hestitate to throw himself on the hospitality of any village." Thomson's Land and the Book. (See SCRIP.)