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“Fumbled the bag” — Meaning, Context & Examples

“Fumbled the bag” — Meaning, Context & Examples

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We all make mistakes sometimes. Messing up is an unfortunate part of life, and it’s important to be able to take a step back and laugh at yourself. 

Not every day is winner winner chicken dinner, some days are loser loser… well, you know what I mean. 

Some days you make a mistake, or rather, “fumble the bag.”

This is a phrase that came about after a hit song used it as lyrics in 2017, and it is still used to this day.

…but what exactly does it mean?


What is the meaning of “fumbled the bag”?

The phrase “fumbled the bag” means making a misstep or error. Originating from financial contexts, it was typically used when someone mishandled money or botched an investment. Currently, its application is broadened, representing general failures or the mishandling of opportunities.

Firstly, it is important to note that this expression, “fumbled the bag”, is an idiom. 

An idiom is an expression that has a meaning that isn’t immediately obvious from the words within it.

The meaning can be quite different from what one would immediately suspect, which makes idioms difficult to understand at times.

In other words, idioms have non-literal meanings.

Idiom examples:

  • Feeling over the moon
  • It’s a piece of cake
  • By the skin of your teeth
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover
  • Feeling under the weather

“Fumbled the bag” is an idiom because the words within would literally mean “to drop the bag”, which is quite different from the actual meaning “to make a mistake”.

This usually refers to a larger mistake like losing a lot of money, messing up at work, or driving away the love of your life. 

You wouldn’t use this kind of expression when making mistakes with comma rules or grammar unless those mistakes came with disastrous results.

Perhaps the following examples will help shed light on the types of situations in which it is best used.


“Fumbled the bag” examples

This expression originally meant making mistakes with money, such as in the following examples:

“He really fumbled the bag with that housing investment. I told him it was in a flood area!”


“I fumbled the bag and wasted my paycheck at the casino.”


“Don’t fumble the bag and go gambling man, you’re getting married soon!”


As expressions often do, “fumbled the bag” has evolved to mean different things. 

It now can refer to any type of mistake or failure, such as using the wrong business conversation starter and losing a potential client, messing up when dating someone, or getting the date wrong for an important meeting. 

You can use it like the following non-monetary examples:


“I fumbled the bag with her, she really hated the restaurant I took her to.”

“You really fumbled the bag this time, buddy. You not showing up to work yesterday has the boss on a rampage!”

“I fumbled the bag by not asking for his number. Now, how am I going to find him?”


If any of these examples apply to you, maybe you should write an apology letter?

But before you go saying sorry for fumbling the bag, let’s back up and learn why this expression came to be in the first place.

Fumbled the Bag


The origins of “fumbled the bag”

Probably the first usage of the term “fumbled the bag” was in the 2017 hit song “I Get the Bag” by Gucci Mane, ft. Migos.

The song made it to #11 on the Billboard Top 100, and remained on the charts for 16 weeks.

While the exact phrase was “get the bag and fumble it”, people were quick to begin using it in their regular vernacular as “fumbled the bag”.

The meaning of “fumbled the bag” in the original context of the song meant “to make a mistake with money/to handle money clumsily”. 

 The lyric which contains the phrase is “You get the bag and fumble it / I get the bag and flip it and tumble it (yeah) / Straight out the lot, 300 cash (cash) / And the car came with a blunt in it (yeah).”

To break down the first part of the phrase, this means:

“You get the bag and fumble it” -> (You get money, and you mismanage it/make mistakes with it) 

“I get the bag and flip it and tumble it” -> (I get money, and I manage it well, turning it into more money)

After the song became a hit, there was a spike in Google searches for the term “fumble the bag,” as it was new slang. 

Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, so mistakes are often spoken about in the past tense. This is why the term “fumbled the bag” remains more popular than the present-tense original “fumble the bag”. 


Now we have a full grasp on the meaning of the idiom “fumbled the bag”. But what do the individual words mean? Let’s take a look.


What does “fumble” mean?

The word “fumble” can be used as a verb or a noun, with slightly different definitions.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has several entries with similar meanings. 


As a verb, it can mean a few different things:

  1. To handle something clumsily. 

One might not have a good grip on an item that they are holding, causing it to slip out of their hands. This definition is often used in sports, as in “fumbling the ball” when a player drops it.


“He made it to the 20-yard line and then fumbled the ball; what a disappointment!”


  1. To make an awkward attempt to do or find something

This is a very common usage of the word “fumble.” You will see it in books and novels more often than you hear it in real life.


“She fumbled around in her purse looking for her glasses but couldn’t see well enough to find them.”

“I fumbled around on a dating app until I finally found a girlfriend.”


  1. To feel one’s way or move awkwardly

Similar to definition 2, this “fumble” is used when doing something physical. It is often paired with the word “around,” as in “fumbling around.”


“He fumbled around looking for the light switch in the dark room.”


As a noun, “fumble” is almost always used as a sports term. 

  1. A loss of possession of the ball during a sports game in a way that isn’t a pass or a kick. 

In other words, to drop the ball when you are not supposed to.


“The team suffered from a number of fumbles in the first half; the players really need to get their acts together.”

“A fumble during the final minute could cost them the game.”


So the word “fumble” often means that something is done awkwardly, clumsily, or something is dropped. These are all negative definitions, which logically insinuates that the idiom is negative.

This is correct! Nobody wants to do things clumsily or make mistakes. Fumbling the bag is always used in a negative context.

Now if you look back at the idiom, there is another word which needs explaining, and it isn’t one that you would often look up the definition of. The word in question is “bag”. 


What does “bag” mean in “fumbled the bag”?

Of course, we aren’t talking about a grocery bag, a shopping bag, or a backpack type of bag. 

The word “bag” in the term “fumbled the bag” has a meaning which is quite simple: money. 

The exact origins of this meaning are unclear, though “bag” is often associated with money and success.

This could be due to the idea that banks kept money in bags, back before US Dollars were minted and bags of gold or coins were still in popular use.


“Look at Mr. Moneybags over there, he can afford 2 cars!”


“I’ve got this job in the bag, I nailed that interview!”
“My dream is to have bags of money and a vacation home.”


“Bag” cannot be used as a direct synonym for “money” out of context, however. This would lead to a lot of confusion. Take these nonsense examples, and you’ll understand why it wouldn’t work.


“I don’t have enough bag to pay the rent this month.”


“I’m marrying for bag, not for love.”

Bag is an important part of almost every economy around the world.”


As you can see, this type of “bag” does not make sense. Stick to using “bag,” meaning “money,” only in expressions and idioms that use it. Otherwise, you are going to get some strange looks and have to deal with a lot of misunderstandings.

There are, however, a number of other expressions which mean the same thing as “fumbled the bag”. 


“Fumbled the bag” in Crypto & NFTs

Another niche you are likely to hear “he fumbled the bag” or even “he fumbled his own bags” is the Crypto & NFT niche.

For instance, if somebody bought an NFT and the next day the floor price of the NFT is -100%, people would say, “He/she fumbled the bag.”

Also, even more common in this context, you would hear something like, “He fumbled his own bag.” You would typically hear that when somebody is complaining about an NFT project on Discord or Twitter, where that somebody owns the NFT as well.

Other people would then call this person out and say, “Don’t fumble your own bag.”, meaning that he should not talk bad about a project that he is personally involved with (=is a holder of that NFT project).




Synonyms for “fumbled the bag”

Mistakes are so common in life; you may want more ways to say that someone (or you) messed up. Here are some other ways you can express this sentiment:

  • Messed up
  • Screwed up
  • Made a mistake
  • Made an oopsie
  • Screwed the pooch
  • Botched
  • Mishandled
  • Bungled

Here are some example sentences for all of these synonyms of “fumbled the bag”:

“Synonyms for fumbled the bag: Example Sentences”
Messed upExample: “I really messed up my presentation at work yesterday.”
Made a mistakeExample: "I made a mistake at work today and I feel bad for my colleagues."
Made an oopsieExample: "I made an oopsie and took the cookies out of the oven too soon."
BotchedExample: "I botched the recipe, now all this food is going to waste."
MishandledExample:"I mishandled the situation, I hope you can forgive me."
BungledExample: "I bungled the date of our meeting, can we re-schedule for next week?"


While I hope that you do not “fumble the bag” in life, dear readers, at least you are now armed with the knowledge of another way to say sorry.

Own up to things as soon as they happen, otherwise, your mistakes can grow to be even more consequential. Be grateful if others are willing to listen to you. 

If you “fumble the bag,” you must admit it and apologize. It’s all a part of life on this beautiful, green planet!