Pocketbook vs Purse - What's the Difference?

Pocketbook vs Purse: What’s the Difference?

Pocketbooks and purses are often used as interchangeable terms, but there are differences between these two items to consider.

Many people in the southeast United States use “pocketbook” as a term for all purses and pocketbooks. You can find a similar approach in some parts of the northeast.

People tend to say “purse” for all pursues and pocketbooks in the midwest, southwest, and Pacific Northwest.

If you leave the United States, almost no one uses “pocketbook” at all. What’s the deal?

Pocketbook vs Purse: What’s the Difference?

A pocketbook is meant to fit into a pocket or some other confined spot for easy carrying. A purse is meant to hang over the shoulder or across the chest to hold more items. It is possible to put a pocketbook into a purse, but it would be impossible for a purse to fit into a pocketbook.

When people talk about a pocketbook today, they often look at the Pocketbook Inkpad 3 or another variation of that technology.

Those e-readers deliver an impressive user experience while opening up new worlds of literature to explore.

You’ll also hear people discussing the differences between a pocketbook and a purse. My mother always called it a “purse.”

“Why would you call it a pocketbook if you drape it over your shoulder?” she said to me once. “It’s meant to be put in your pocket.”

My best friend in high school had her mother say the opposite. “If you want a purse, it goes in your pocket.

When you need to haul everything around while running errands, the only answer is a pocketbook.”

If I wanted to cause some trouble, I’d ask, “What about a clutch?”

When taking a closer look at the pocketbook vs purse debate, I’ve found the conversation typically flows into one of the following categories.

Pocketbook vs Purse UsageWhy This Pocketbook vs Purse Usage Exists
By SizeSome people say purses are small and meant to carry coins and bills – sort of like a men’s wallet. Others say that pocketbooks are responsible for that task.
By Time of DayThe item that gets used during the day is sometimes called a pocketbook, while the evening bag gets referred to as a purse. That gets confusing since the same item can serve in both roles.
By RegionIt’s mostly Americans that use pocketbook to describe these items. Even then, it’s typically in the southern states or the New England region – or in other parts of the country from people who grew up in those areas.
By GenerationPeople use purse and pocketbook interchangeably across multiple generations. Younger people tend to prefer purse, but you’ll see Generation Z often calling it a bag.

Regional variations are common in the United States. It’s not just purses and pocketbooks that are affected by this interesting verbiage.

When I was growing up, my grandparents would always invite us over for dinner. They were from southern Illinois. The first time we got that invitation, I thought we were going over for the final meal of the day.

Instead, they had invited us for lunch. My definition of dinner was their term for “supper.”

After several years of this confusing terminology, I finally asked my grandmother why they called lunch “dinner” instead of what everyone else did. She told me it was something that her parents always did on the farm.

The word “dinner” is used to describe the biggest meal of the day. Most of us have it as the final meal right now, but back then, it was around noon to ensure everyone had enough energy to get through the day. Supper was the final meal, and it was a lot lighter.

I got to experience this need first-hand during my junior year of high school. I was tired of babysitting and paper routes, so I took a job on a local farm.

Breakfast was at 5:45 AM, we’d do three hours of chores, and then “second breakfast” was around 9 AM.

We’d feed the calves, do some bailing, or handle other duties until around noon, which is when “dinner” was available. Then it was off to do more chores, the evening milking, and then “supper.”

By definition, a pocketbook goes into a pocket, just like “dinner” is the main meal of the day. You could have dinner for breakfast, but it doesn’t change the terminology.

That’s why many of today’s young people opt for “bag” when describing pocketbooks and purses. It eliminates most of the confusion.

Even when you search for products online, you’ll find “pocketbooks for women” in the category of “women’s handbags.”

What Are the Best Handbags to Carry Today?

I like shopping at the local thrift stores to see what handbags there are to repurpose. My community isn’t mega-rich, but there is enough wealth around that you can sometimes find a designer bag hanging on the rack.

That’s when my fingers do that evil steepling mechanism while my mind thinks, “Hello, my Precious!”

There are also times when I need a new handbag to match a specific outfit or look I want to achieve. When that happens, these are the products I turn to first.

1. Laorentou Leather Tote Handbag

This gorgeous handbag uses a soft, full-grain cow leather foundation to create an incredible product.

It has an interior polyester lining that looks and feels like silk, while the microfiber handle delivers an impressive level of wear resistance.

I’ve relied on this handbag for my daily commute for over a year, but you’d never know it because of its durability.

The bag has two main compartments. You’ll also get an internal and an external zipper pocket with a companion open one, allowing you to keep small things without having them fall. I carry a book to read, my phone, and my other essentials for work in it.

You can loop it over an arm or have it serve as a crossbody bag. I literally don’t know what I’d do without it.

2. Foxer Leather Tote

It’s the simplicity of this bag’s design that initially drew me to it. Although it isn’t the biggest option you’ll find, it has enough space to carry what you need for a night on the town.

The split cowhide has a soft feel to it, while the interior polyester lining is like getting a mystery box. There are three different designs, but you don’t know what you’ll receive.

Several pockets are available to use, while the woven handles provide the right levels of grip and durability.

I’ve discovered that you want to be careful with the zipper, but otherwise, this handbag will become one of your favorites. It certainly has for me.

3. Zhuoliang Leather Handbag

While growing up, I was fascinated by Japanese culture. Admittedly, it began with anime.

I got to take my first Japanese lessons in third grade, and my family let me take my senior trip there. When I use this beautiful handbag, it reminds me of those times.

It uses a genuine leather foundation to hold gold hardware and ornamental patterning that you’ll adore. You can use it as a messenger or a shoulder bag with its detachable strap.

At just eight inches high and about four inches wide, it won’t be the biggest bag in your collections. It has three pockets inside, which is plenty of room for makeup, sunglasses, a phone, and a few other items.

4. MKF Collection

The reason why I love a good thrift store is that you won’t find a better spot for something stylish and chic. Yesterday’s fashion always comes back around, so I think of it as an investment in myself.

The dual pocketbook and purse combination with this vegan PU leather product delivers a two-piece set you’ll adore.

I love using the little wristlet for business cards. The shoulder bag has some nice depth to it, while the stitching is sturdy for a variety of needs.

I get more compliments with this collection than I do any other bag in my collection. That includes the handful of designer brands I’ve got.

5. Dasein Handbag Combination

This cute combination of a satchel and pocketbook comes in several adorable colors. The pink is my favorite, but all of them could be part of my collection. You’ll find floral prints, multiple colors, and even a leather option.

It’s an eco-friendly option that holds a surprising amount of stuff. I can fit my laptop in there with room to spare for a few files.

The lined interior has enough softness to be supportive while still being easy to clean.

The construction isn’t comparable to a designer bag, but it still gets the job done. It’s fairly stiff during the first few times you carry it, but everything it softens.

When you max out its capacity, the bag does get to be a bit bulky. That’s something I don’t mind, but I know some people do. It’ll take care of you.

Pocketbook vs Purse: Does It Matter?

Purses and pocketbooks go by several different names. Some people use clutch, bag, valise, pochette, etui, tote, and reticule to describe the same product. As long as the product serves its purpose, remains durable, and protects your belongings, the name used matters less than its consistency.

One of my favorite experiences was to spend a day at Saks Fifth Avenue. They had so many beautiful purses and pocketbooks from designer brands! I could have spent my entire college fund in there with all the tempting items.

I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything, but then I fell in love with a perforated leather tote that I needed to have.

The price wasn’t entirely out of my budget (under $1,000), so I walked out with confidence.

That bag still sits at home, waiting for the perfect opportunity to come outside and deliver a fashionable statement.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s called a pocketbook or a purse. The question to ask is this: do you like the bag? If so, nothing else is important.


My name is Hajer and welcome to my site. This is my little haven, my outlet, where I can express myself, and show you everything I've learned about makeup, skincare, hair tips, and so much more, as well as the different beauty mistakes I've made so that you can avoid them.

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