Definition of purse in English:

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Pronunciation: /pəːs/


1chiefly British A small pouch of leather or plastic used for carrying money, typically by a woman: she had enough in her purse for bus fare
More example sentences
  • They escaped with the black bag containing two black leather purses, one with 8p in change and the other a pension card, leaving their victim slightly injured.
  • In a leather purse was a £5 note, some small notes, and a number of shillings and sixpences above the value of £10.
  • Visitors are advised to take their purse or plastic.
wallet, pouch, money bag;
North American  change purse, pocketbook
1.1The money possessed by or available to a person or country: institutions are funded from the same general purse
More example sentences
  • The United Kingdom budgetary cuts will serve to reduce the purse available to the incumbent ministers.
  • Layog was suppressing the people and using all of the money from taxes for their own purses instead of the general good.
  • This huge massed fund was the purse, say the Seagraves, from which the zaibatsu financed Japan's industrial growth after 1946.
fund, funds, resources, money, kitty, pool, coffers, bank, treasury, exchequer, finances, wealth, reserves, cash, capital, assets;
North American  fisc
1.2A sum of money given as a prize in a sporting contest, especially a boxing match: a fight for which his purse was $400,000
More example sentences
  • If anything, it was the epic length of the encounter that turned it into some kind of heavyweight contest for a prize purse.
  • Put the right money as a prize purse, and you will have the world competing in your backyard.
  • Davidoff Cool Water will be continuing its support of free-sports over the next few years, through sponsorship funds and prize purses.
prize, award, reward;
prize money, winnings, stake(s)
2North American A handbag: a young woman with a purse hanging from her elbow
More example sentences
  • Clutch purses and handbags have an elegant, streamlined look, but they're the perfect size to carry all those little necessities.
  • Police are appealing for witnesses after a thief reached over a pensioner's shoulder and grabbed her purse from her handbag.
  • A little further ahead, the strong smell of leather assailed the nostrils and the eyes were greeted with the sight of handbags, purses, wallets, key-chains and stuff like that.
handbag, bag, clutch bag, shoulder bag, evening bag, pochette;
North American  pocketbook
historical reticule, scrip


(With reference to the lips) pucker or contract, typically to express disapproval or irritation: [with object]: Marianne took a glance at her reflection and pursed her lips disgustedly [no object]: under stress his lips would purse slightly
More example sentences
  • When the jury revealed its verdict on Ingram, he made no response other than pursing his lips and slightly shaking his head.
  • I withdrew, my lips pursing slightly, and I removed my arm from his jumper.
  • There was a pause as Kat stared at him, her lips pursing together slightly.
press together, compress, contract, tighten, pucker, screw up, wrinkle, pout



hold the purse strings

Have control of expenditure: the power and the influence lie with the person who holds the purse strings
More example sentences
  • The lowest quote was usually chosen by the board of governors, who held the purse strings, which was seen as ‘best value’.
  • One way of testing whether it really is true that who holds the purse strings controls how the money is spent, is to look at what happens when income is transferred from husbands to wives.
  • However, by holding the purse strings, the university administration can easily usurp faculty roles by supporting the hiring and promotion of only those whose fields are likely to bring in the most money.

tighten (or loosen) the purse strings

Restrict (or increase) the amount of money available to be spent: the job losses were the result of a tightening of the purse strings throughout the Civil Service
More example sentences
  • Banks and other investors tend to loosen the purse strings when business owners throw some of their own money into the mix.
  • The Scottish Executive wants to set an example by tightening the purse strings and understanding some economics.
  • When a club has to tighten the purse strings, that's when teams that do have a bit of money will be thinking they can pick up a couple of bargains and they'll all be sniffing about.


Late Old English, alteration of late Latin bursa 'purse', from Greek bursa 'hide, leather'. The current verb sense (from the notion of drawing purse strings) dates from the early 17th century.

  • A purse gets its name from its traditional material, leather. The word came into English some time in the 11th or 12th centuries from Latin bursa, which meant ‘money bag’ and also ‘leather, animal skin’. Bursa is the source of bursar (late 16th century), disburse (mid 16th century), and reimburse (early 17th century). Despite the difference in spelling, it is also the root of sporran, a small pouch worn around the waist by Scotsmen as part of Highland dress. The Latin word developed into Irish sparán ‘purse’ and then Scottish Gaelic sporan, and was first used in English by the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century.

Words that rhyme with purse

amerce, asperse, averse, biodiverse, burse, coerce, converse, curse, diverse, Erse, hearse, immerse, intersperse, nurse, perse, perverse, reimburse, submerse, terce, terse, transverse, verse, worse

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