"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.
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]
updated on August 17, 2020