mid-14c., "roofed passage, vent for smoke," later "shed for animals" (mid-15c.), of unknown origin. The proposal that it is a diminutive of Old English hof "dwellings, farm" is "etymologically and chronologically inadmissible" [OED]. Meaning "shed for human habitation; rude or miserable cabin" is from 1620s. It also sometimes meant "canopied niche for a statue or image" (mid-15c.).