early 13c., husewif, "woman, usually married, in charge of a family or household; wife of a householder," from huse "house" (see house (n.)) + wif "woman" (see wife (n.)). Compare husband (n.). Originally pronounced "huzzif;" the full written form of it began to be used from c. 1500, representing a pronunciation shift that was made at least in part to distinguish it from its offspring, hussy. In 16c., "housewife and hussy were still realized to be same word," and it was felt "that a distinction between the two was due to the reputable matron" [Fowler]. From mid-18c.: "It is common to use housewife in a good, and huswife or hussy in a bad sense" [Johnson]. Related: Housewifely.
updated on September 25, 2015