The first attested use of the word scumbag is from the 1967 edition of the Dictionary of American Slang, but it was probably in use for a while before that: it's thought to have originated around the 1930s. At the time, it meant "condom", on the notion that they were "bags" for "scum". The modern insult for "terrible person" emerged in the early 1970s from that earlier definition, and since then usage has grown exponentially until a peak in 2017. Scum comes from the Middle Dutch word schume, meaning "foam" or "froth", and that, through Proto-Germanic skuma, derives from the Proto-Indo-European root skew, meaning "cover", since foam covers water. Bag, meanwhile, traces to the Old Norse noun baggi, meaning "bundle", and that possibly traces to Proto-Indo-European bask, also "bundle".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.