Word Origin & History
O.E. pursa "little bag made of leather," from M.L. bursa "purse" (cf. O.Fr. borse, 12c., Fr. bourse), from L.L., variant of byrsa "hide," from Gk. byrsa "hide, leather." Change of b- to p- perhaps by infl. of O.E. pusa, O.N. posi "bag." Meaning "woman's handbag" is attested from 1955. Meaning "sum of
money collected as a prize in a race, etc.," is from 1650. The verb, "draw together and wrinkle" (as the strings of a money bag) is first recorded 1604. Purse-strings, fig. for "control of money" is from c.1412. Purse-snatcher first attested 1902 (earlier purse-picker, 1549). The notion of "drawn together by a thong" is also behind purse-net (c.1400).