a bag or box of leather, fabric, plastic, or the like, held in the hand or carried by means of a handle or strap, commonly used by women for holding money, toilet articles, small purchases, etc.

1860–65; hand + bag

briefcase, handbag, pocketbook, purse, valise, wallet.
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World English Dictionary
handbag (ˈhændˌbæɡ)
1.  bag, purse, Also called: pocketbook a woman's small bag carried to contain personal articles
2.  a small suitcase that can be carried by hand
3.  a commercial style of House music
[(for sense 3) C20: humorous allusion to the trend for groups of women to dance round their handbags in discos, nightclubs, etc]

handbags (ˈhændˌbæɡz)
pl n
facetious an incident in which people, esp sportsmen, fight or threaten to fight, but without real intent to inflict harm (esp in the phrases handbags at dawn, handbags at twenty paces, etc)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
Main Entry:  handbags
Part of Speech:  n pl
Definition:  a harmless altercation; trouble; also called handbag situation
Example:  When they discover we've spent the Christmas savings, it's going to be handbags.
Etymology:  abbr. of handbags at dawn
Usage:  British slang
Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
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