as a modifier, attested by 1941. The expression is much older (1610s). Related: Do-it-yourselfer.
Old English hit, neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronoun, from Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi- (source also of Old Frisian hit, Dutch het, Gothic hita "it"), from PIE *ko- "this" (see he). Used in place of any neuter noun, hence, as gender faded in Middle English, it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before."
The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," is heard only "in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1610s; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, the meaning "the one who must tag or catch the others" is attested from 1842.
From Old English as nominative of an impersonal verb or statement when the thing for which it stands is implied (it rains, it pleases me). After an intransitive verb, used transitively for the action denoted, from 1540s (originally in fight it out). That's it "there is no more" is from 1966; this is it "the anticipated or dreaded moment has arrived" is from 1942.
"perform, execute, achieve, carry out, bring to pass by procedure of any kind," etc., etc., Middle English do, first person singular of Old English don "make, act, perform, cause; to put, to place," from West Germanic *doanan (source also of Old Saxon duan, Old Frisian dwa, Dutch doen, Old High German tuon, German tun), from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put, place."
Use as an auxiliary began in Middle English. Sense of "to put, place, lay" is obsolete except in phrases such as do away with. Periphrastic form in negative sentences (They did not think) replaced the Old English negative particles (Hie ne wendon).
Meaning "visit as a tourist" is from 1817. In old slang it meant "to hoax, cheat, swindle" (1640s). Slang meaning "to do the sex act with or to" is from 1913.
Slang do in "bring disaster upon, kill" is by 1905. To have to do with "have concern or connection with" is from late 13c. To do without "dispense with" is from 1713. Expression do or die indicating determination to succeed despite dangers or obstacles is attested from 1620s.
*dō-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to give."
It forms all or part of: add; anecdote; antidote; betray; condone; dacha; dado; data; date (n.1) "time;" dative; deodand; die (n.); donation; donative; donor; Dorian; Dorothy; dose; dowager; dower; dowry; edition; endow; Eudora; fedora; Isidore; mandate; Pandora; pardon; perdition; Polydorus; render; rent (n.1) "payment for use of property;" sacerdotal; samizdat; surrender; Theodore; Theodosia; tradition; traitor; treason; vend.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dadati "gives," danam "offering, present;" Old Persian dadatuv "let him give;" Greek didomi, didonai, "to give, offer," dōron "gift;" Latin dare "to give, grant, offer," donum "gift;" Armenian tam "to give;" Old Church Slavonic dati "give," dani "tribute;" Lithuanian duoti "to give," duonis "gift;" Old Irish dan "gift, endowment, talent," Welsh dawn "gift."
1590s, "commotion, trouble" (a sense now obsolete), from do (v.). From 1630s as "act of doing;" by 1824 as "something done in a set or formal manner;" by 1835 as "a cheat, a swindle." Phrase do's and dont's "things that out and ought not to be done" (variously apostrophed) is by 1899.
also do-se-do, common step in square-, contra-, polka-dancing, etc., 1929, from French dos-à-dos "back to back" (see dossier).
"a person who actively seeks to correct social ills in an idealistic, but usually impractical or superficial, way," 1650s (as do-good), in "Zootomia, or Observations on the Present Manners of the English: Briefly Anatomizing the Living by the Dead. With An Usefull Detection of the Mountebanks of Both Sexes," written by Richard Whitlock, a medical doctor. Probably used even then with a taint of impractical idealism. The verbal phrase do good "do good deeds" was in Old English.
Modern pejorative use seems to have begun on the socialist left, mocking those who were unwilling to take a hard line. OED has this citation, from The Nation in 1923:
There is nothing the matter with the United States except ... the parlor socialists, up-lifters, and do-goods.
The form do-gooder appears in American English by 1922, presumably because do-good was no longer felt as sufficiently noun-like. A slightly older word for this was goo-goo.