"one who provides others with the means and opportunity of gratifying their sexual lusts," c. 1600, of unknown origin, perhaps from French pimpant "alluring in dress, seductive," present participle of pimper "to dress elegantly" (16c.), from Old French pimpelorer, pipelorer "decorate, color, beautify." Weekley suggests French pimpreneau, defined in Cotgrave [French-English Dictionary, 1611] as "a knave, rascall, varlet, scoundrell," but Liberman is against this.
Judging by such recorded meanings of pimp as 'helper in mines; servant in logging camps,' this word was originally applied to boys and servants. [Liberman]
The word also means "informer, stool pigeon" in Australia and New Zealand and in South Africa, where by early 1960s it existed in Swahili form impimpsi. Pimpmobile first recorded 1973 (six years before Popemobile).
PIMP. A male procurer, or cock bawd; also a small faggot used about London for lighting fires, named from introducing the fire to the coals. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," London, 1785]
Among the lists of late Middle English terms for animal groupings was a pimpe of chickens (or birds), mid-15c., a variant of pipe "flock" (mid-14c.), from Old French pipee.
1630s (intransitive) "to act as a pimp, provide for others the means of gratifying their sexual lusts," from pimp (n.). Transitive senses are modern (late 20c.). Related: Pimped; pimping.