"to call or shout in disapproval or scorn," c. 1600, probably related to or a variant of Middle English houten, huten "to shout, call out" (c. 1200), which is more or less imitative of the sound of the thing. First used of bird cries, especially that of the owl, mid-15c. Meaning "to laugh" is from 1926. Related: Hooted; hooting. A hoot owl (1826) is distinguished from a screech owl.