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I have seen multiple words that supposedly translate as "purse." (A list of words is at the end of the question.)

Are any of these words broad, general words? Are any quite specific?

I assume that some of them might be names for different styles of purses and bags. For example, in English a "clutch purse" is a purse with no handle or strap and is only carried by females. In contrast, a "shoulder bag" is a bag with a strap that is long enough to go over a person's shoulder and could be either a woman's bag or a man's bag.

The only "purse" word that I am sure I understand is がまぐち

(I understand that a「がまぐち」 is a purse, handbag, or coin purse that has a metal clasp. The name comes from the way that it looks like a toad's mouth when it is open.)

Here are some of the other Japanese words that I have seen listed as "purses."

財布{さいふ}

ハンドバッグ

手提げ{てさげ}

懐中物{かいちゅうもの}

鞄{かばん}

パース

金入れ{かねいれ}

*edited to add: stack reader suggested that I take a look at Google Images, so I checked each word on Google Images. Here are my impressions of what I saw, but I am not sure how accurate my impressions are.

財布 「さいふ」is a small case or wallet. It can have a zipper, a metal clasp, or simply fold shut. It is made of leather. It appears to be used by both men and women.

ハンドバッグ appears to be a leather purse with a handle. Sometimes it has a longer strap. I am guessing from the images that it is more gendered than a さいふ and I am guessing that it is a women's item.

手提げ 「てさげ」 seems to be a large category. Most of them are made of cloth. They are somewhat boxy with a rectangular bottom that has corners. Many of them would be called canvas bags or tote bags in American English. Some appear to be large paper shopping bags. A few seem to be more rounded and more like a big purse with a handle.

懐中物 「かいちゅうもの」confuses me. I can't tell what the images have in common. There are images of watches on chains. There are small boxes. There are things that might be decorative paper envelopes. There are small, flat fabric things that close with a flap.

鞄 「かばん」 seems to be made of leather. The word seems to include satchels, briefcases, coin purses, wallets and shoulder bags. If I were to judge them by the standards of my own country, they look less feminine than the ハンドバッグ Are these for men or are they for both genders?

パース confuses me. Maybe I copied down the wrong word?? Google images shows me the city of Perth in Australia and architectural drawings.

金入れ かねいれ seems to include wallets for paper money. It also seems to include paper that has been folded around paper money in a standardized series of folds. It might include money collected in a basket.

  • 1
    I would suggest you go have fun on Google image. Search each of them one by one and see the differences for yourself. An image is worth a thousand words. – stack reader Apr 4 '17 at 2:47
  • @stack reader Thank you for the suggestion. I've been trying Google Images, and it did help some. I can't fit my thoughts in a comment, so I'll edit the question. – cloveapple Apr 4 '17 at 4:37
  • 「小銭入れ」ってのも結構使うかも・・・? – Chocolate Apr 4 '17 at 16:23
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As a former handbag dealer, I am going to say that the top 3 generic terms for "purse" used by Japanese-speakers (dealers and end-users alike) in no particular order would be:

・セカンドバッグ

・クラッチバッグ

・ポーチ

Other words would not even come close to those in frequency of use.

Among the words you have listed:

You will not hear 「懐中物」 in real life in the 21st century. (Maybe you will on SE.) Try using that word in a department store and see how your clerk reacts.

The same goes for 「金入れ」; Just forget it! It is like saying "money bag" and you will not look too good.

Next, 「パース」. You would not use it unless you were extremely fashionable. Less than 1-2% of my former-customers used that word when most of them were already fairly fashionable.

「かばん」, 「手提げ」 and 「ハンドバッグ」 would be too broad to refer to a purse. Besides, those are used to refer to larger bags than purses.

「財布」 means a "wallet", not a purse.

「がまぐち」 is one word I never used myself or heard anyone say while in the handbag business (because I never sold them). Grandma types might use it to refer to a hand-sized pouch to carry folded bills and coins for shopping in their neighborhoods. They look like this:

enter image description here

  • In English, "purse" can be used to describe both a handbag or a money pouch (archaic, but that seems to account for 財布 and 金入れ). It seems like Japanese doesn't really have a word that can be used to describe either? – Jorn Vernee Apr 4 '17 at 10:28
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Among these, パース, 金入れ and 懐中物 are very rare and you can forget them. No wonder Google Image Search gives confusing results for these. パース is from purse, but in katakanized English parse and Perth shares the same spelling, and パース also means perspective.

財布, 鞄, ハンドバッグ and 手提げ are common, but I believe Google Image Search is enough. 財布 is a container used for carrying money. 鞄 is a bag in general, and others are varyous types of bags used to carry items including a 財布 itself. がまぐち is relatively uncommon because ordinary young Japanese people no longer use them.

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