mid-15c., "cry of dissatisfaction or contempt," from hoot (v.). Meaning "a laugh, something funny" is first recorded 1942. Slang sense of "smallest amount or particle" (the hoot you don't give when you don't care) is from 1891.
"A dod blasted ole fool!" answered the captain, who, till now, had been merely an amused on-looker. "Ye know all this rumpus wont do nobuddy a hoot o' good—not a hoot." ["Along Traverse Shores," Traverse City, Michigan, 1891]
Hooter in the same sense is from 1839.
HOOTER. Probably a corruption of iota. Common in New York in such phrases as "I don't care a hooter for him." "This note ain't worth a hooter." [John Russell Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1877]
"cry out with a sharp, shrill voice," 1570s, an alteration of scritch (mid-13c., schrichen), perhaps a general Germanic word (compare Old Frisian skrichta, Muddle Dutch schrien), probably ultimately of imitative origin (compare shriek). Also compare screak, "utter a shrill, harsh cry," c. 1500, from Old Norse skrækja, also probably echoic. Related: Screeched; screeching.
Of wagon-wheels, door-hinges, etc., "make a shrill, grating sound," 1560s. Screech-owl is attested from 1590s (scritch-owl is from 1520s) in reference to the barn-owl; in the U.S. the term is applied to small horned owls. The name is given to owls that "screech" as distinguished from ones that hoot. The cry was regarded as ominous.
"informal session of folk musicians," 1940, American English, earlier "a gadget" (1927), of unknown origin, perhaps a nonsense word.
Another device used by the professional car thief, and one recently developed to perfection, according to a large Chicago lock-testing laboratory, is a "hootenanny," so-called by the criminals using it. [Popular Mechanics, February 1931]
"raptorial nocturnal bird of prey of the family Strigidæ," Middle English oule, from Old English ule "owl," from Proto-Germanic *uwwalon- (source also of Middle Dutch, Dutch uil, Old High German uwila, German Eule, Old Norse ugla), a diminutive of PIE root *u(wa)l-, which is imitative of a wail or an owl's hoot (compare howl and Latin ulula "owl;" also see ululation).
The bird was used in proverbs and figures of speech in reference to its nocturnal habits, but also in Middle English for ugliness (late 14c.), spiritual blindness (c. 1400), and maliciousness (mid-15c.). It was a name for Satan in early 15c. The association with gravity and wisdom comes later, after the revival of classical learning: A small, brown type of owl is common on the Acropolis and about Athens and was hence taken in ancient times as an emblem of the city and by extension of its patron deity, Athene, goddess of wisdom. Hence also the saying bring (or send) owls to Athens "perform unnecessary labor."
By 1895 in reference to a person whose pleasure or business is to be up at night. Owl-flight "twilight" is from late 15c. The name of the trickster Till Eulenspiegel (literally "owl-mirror") of the popular German tales was rendered in English as Owlglass when they were first translated c. 1560; Jonson and Scott use the half-translated Owl-spiegle.
1530s (transitive), "to reject with scorn," from Latin explodere "drive out or off by clapping, hiss off, hoot off," originally theatrical, "to drive an actor off the stage by making noise," hence "drive out, reject, destroy the repute of" (a sense surviving in an exploded theory), from ex "out" (see ex-) + plaudere "to clap the hands, applaud," which is of uncertain origin. Athenian audiences were highly demonstrative. clapping and shouting approval, stamping, hissing, and hooting for disapproval. The Romans seem to have done likewise.
At the close of the performance of a comedy in the Roman theatre one of the actors dismissed the audience, with a request for their approbation, the expression being usually plaudite, vos plaudite, or vos valete et plaudite. [William Smith, "A First Latin Reading Book," 1890]
English used it to mean "drive out with violence and sudden noise" (1650s), later "cause to burst suddenly and noisily" (1794). Intransitive sense of "go off with a loud noise" is from 1790, American English; figurative sense of "to burst with destructive force" is by 1882; that of "burst into sudden activity" is from 1817; of population by 1959. Related: Exploded; exploding.
Middle English iron, iren, yron, from Old English iren, variant (with rhotacism of -s-) of isen, later form of isern, isærn "the metal iron; an iron weapon or instrument," from Proto-Germanic *isarn (source also of Old Saxon isarn, Old Frisian isern, Old Norse isarn, Middle Dutch iser, Old High German isarn, German Eisen).
This perhaps is an early borrowing of Celtic *isarnon (compare Old Irish iarn, Welsh haiarn), which Watkins suggests is from PIE *is-(e)ro- "powerful, holy," from PIE *eis "strong" (source also of Sanskrit isirah "vigorous, strong," Greek ieros "strong"), on the notion of "holy metal" or "strong metal" (in contrast to softer bronze).
It was both an adjective and a noun in Old English, but in form it is an adjective. The alternative isen survived into early Middle English as izen. In southern England the Middle English word tended to be ire, yre, with loss of -n, perhaps regarded as an inflection; in the north and Scotland, however, the word tended to be contracted to irn, yrn, still detectable in dialect.
Right so as whil that Iren is hoot men sholden smyte. [Chaucer, c. 1386]
Chemical symbol Fe is from the Latin word for the metal, ferrum (see ferro-). Meaning "metal device used to press or smooth clothes" is from 1610s. Meaning "golf club with an iron head, 1842. To have (too) many irons in the fire "to be doing too much at once" is from 1540s. Iron lung "artificial respiration tank" is from 1932. The iron crown was that of the ancient kings of Lombardy, with a thin band of iron in the gold, said to have been forged from a nail of Christ's Cross. Iron horse "railroad locomotive" is from an 1839 poem. Iron maiden, instrument of torture, is from 1837 (probably translating German eiserne jungfrau). The unidentified French political prisoner known as the man in the iron mask died in the Bastille in 1703. In British history, Wellington was called the Iron Duke by 1832.