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sand·​bag ˈsan(d)-ˌbag How to pronounce sandbag (audio)
: a bag filled with sand and used in fortifications, as ballast, or as a weapon


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sandbagged; sandbagging; sandbags

transitive verb

: to bank, stop up, or weight with sandbags
: to hit or stun with or as if with a sandbag
: to treat unfairly or harshly
: to coerce by crude means
are raiding the Treasury and sandbagging the governmentC. W. Ferguson
: to conceal or misrepresent one's true position, potential, or intent especially in order to gain an advantage over

intransitive verb

: to hide the truth about oneself so as to gain an advantage over another
sandbagger noun

Did you know?

How much nuance is there in a bag of sand? Here’s the nitty-gritty: when sandbag was first established as a verb in the 1800s, it meant (quite understandably) “to bank, stop up, or weight with sandbags,” but since then it has taken on several figurative meanings, some more obvious than others. First came the simple (and decidedly unfriendly in application) metaphorical extension: “to hit or stun as if with a sandbag.” Less literal uses followed, including “to treat unfairly or harshly” and “to coerce by crude means.” By the mid-20th century, sandbag was being used by poker players to describe the act of pretending a strong hand is actually weak, in order to draw other players into raising the bet. This use of sandbag has since evolved to refer to a general strategy of misrepresenting one’s intentions or abilities in order to gain some sort of advantage.

Examples of sandbag in a Sentence

Verb He claimed he was playing badly because of an injury, but I think he was sandbagging. I think he was sandbagging us.
Recent Examples on the Web
This seasoned aid leader lugs sandbags to help secure the sides of the tent. Francine Kiefer, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 Apr. 2024 As for neighboring Mississippi, more than 100,000 sandbags have been handed out to residents. Robert Shackelford, CNN, 10 Apr. 2024 More than 200 daily personnel working around the clock used 86 excavators and 54 dump trucks to deliver 200,000 tons of rock, bail 300,000 cubic yards of sediment and deploy 15,000 sandbags. Louis Sahagún, Los Angeles Times, 18 Feb. 2024 The city is also making sandbags available at the Encanto Recreation Center and Mountain View Community Center from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for residents in those communities. Lyndsay Winkley, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Feb. 2024 All those worries about his wickedly poor spring training were put to bed early as Webb was moving his sinker around the zone and throwing sharp sliders to go with his sandbag of a changeup. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, 28 Mar. 2024 Contestants whose sandbag landed on one of those could take a case from whoever already had one. Journal Sentinel, 12 Mar. 2024 Weighed down by sandbags and pipes, the Titan began its two-and-a-half-hour descent to the storied shipwreck. Anna Lazarus Caplan, Peoplemag, 6 Mar. 2024 Homeowners have put up boulders, seawalls and sandbags to protect their properties. Laylan Connelly, Orange County Register, 25 Feb. 2024
The windows of schools and government buildings are taped up and sandbagged to protect residents from glass in case of explosions. Francesca Ebel, Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2024 Things weren’t going great in that state, either—high taxes and regulatory struggles were sandbagging the legal market. Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 That means that 1 in 5 economists polled think the Fed should go ahead and cut interest rates, easing up on its determination to sandbag the economy until inflation comes down. Melvin Backman, Quartz, 12 Feb. 2024 Baby Luigi represents the reaction of sandbagging racers in this artistic rendering. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 9 Nov. 2023 This past term was no different, as the high court’s conservative majority ruled against affirmative action in higher education, sandbagged the Environmental Protection Agency, and struck down President Joe Biden’s plan to alleviate the burden of student loans. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 6 Oct. 2023 Mark Kelly One constant among this country’s pounding political waves is that most Americans would just like to sandbag their lives against Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, 14 June 2023 Toward the end of the episode, the new CEOs are offered the chance to craft a media narrative effectively sandbagging their late father, suggesting Ken and Rome were the company’s true masterminds in Logan’s later years. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Apr. 2023 Played as an arrogant idiot prince, Rogen’s instantly identifiable stoner giggle sandbags the simian’s bravado in wry fashion. Christopher Cruz, Rolling Stone, 4 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sandbag.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1590, in the meaning defined above


1860, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sandbag was in 1590


Dictionary Entries Near sandbag

Cite this Entry

“Sandbag.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a bag filled with sand
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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