1540s, "awkward fellow, boor, bumpkin," of uncertain origin. Perhaps a noun from a dialectal survival of Middle English louten (v.) "bow down" (c. 1300), from Old English lutan "bow low," from Proto-Germanic *lut- "to bow, bend, stoop" (source also of Old Norse lutr "stooping," which itself might also be the source of the modern English word).
According to Watkins this is from PIE *leud- "to lurk" (source also of Gothic luton "to deceive," Old English lot "deceit), also "to be small" (see little). Non-Germanic cognates probably include Lithuanian liūdėti "to mourn;" Old Church Slavonic luditi "to deceive," ludu "foolish." Sense of "cad" is first attested 1857 in British schoolboy slang.