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Bolsa or Bolso?

I have been looking for a new bag for a long time, and this last weekend I finally spotted one that I liked, so I bought it. Now the tricky part. What is the difference between un bolso and una bolsa? This has been one of those questions that rolls around in my head and pops out a different answer each time I have to refer to any type of bag, causing pausing and stammering when trying to speak in Spanish.

To put it finally to rest here is the definitive definition.

When to use una bolsa or un bolso.

A bag (such as a messenger bag) is una bolsa.
A woman’s handbag is un bolso.
A plastic bag from the supermarket is una bolsa.
A back pack is una mochila.

I think it was the masculine/feminine cross over with the men’s and womens bags that had me confused. Now it is written down, I will never get it wrong again. And I have a nice new bag.

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