late 13c., "woman who keeps an inn or public hotel," from host (n.1) + -ess, or from Old French ostesse, hostesse "hostess; servant; guest" (Modern French hôtesse). Old French also had ostelaine; the Latin word was hospita. Meaning "woman who presides at a dinner party, etc." recorded by 1822. Also used mid-20c. in sense "female who entertains customers in nightclubs," with overtones of prostitution.