from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War for political or financial advantage.
  • noun An outsider, especially a politician, who presumptuously seeks a position or success in a new locality.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One who travels with a carpet-bag; specifically, a person who takes up his residence in a place, with no more property than he brings in a carpet-bag, with a view of making his way by enterprise.
  • noun In the western United States, a “wildcat” banker, that is, one who had no local abiding-place, and could not be found when wanted. In the Southern States, after the civil war, a new-comer from the North: an opprobrious term applied properly to a class of adventurers who took advantage of the disorganized condition of political affairs in the earlier years of reconstruction to gain control of the public offices and to use their influence over the negro voters for their own selfish ends. The term was often extended to include any unpopular person of Northern origin living in the South.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun United States An adventurer; -- a term of contempt for a Northern man seeking private gain or political advancement in the southern part of the United States after the Civil War (1865).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun politics, history An immigrant from the Northern to the Southern States after the American Civil War of 1861–5, especially one who went South to gain political influence; hence, someone intervening in the politics of an area with which they are thought to have no real connection.
  • noun pejorative, by extension One who comes to a place or organisation with which they have no previous connection with the sole or primary aim of personal gain, especially political or financial gain.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an outsider who seeks power or success presumptuously


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[So called because they carried their belongings in carpetbags.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From carpetbag +‎ -er.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word carpetbagger.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • See carpet bag and Mary Poppins.

    December 23, 2008

  • HU for "carpetbagger" is "szerencselovag" / "szerencsevadasz" (good luck hunter)

    August 1, 2012