1520s, "mistress of a household, housewife," deformed contraction of Middle English husewif (see housewife). Evidence of the shortening of the two vowels is throughout Middle English. Traditionally pronounced "huzzy," in 20c. the pronunciation shifted to match the spelling. The sense gradually broadened colloquially to mean "any woman or girl." By 1650 the word was especially applied to "a woman or girl who shows casual or improper behavior" (short for pert hussy, etc.), and it had lost all but its derogatory sense by mid-18c.