Word Origin & History
O.E. hit, neut. nom. & acc. of third pers. sing. pronoun, from P.Gmc. demonstrative base *khi- (cf. O.Fris. hit, Du. het, Goth. hita "it"), which is also the root of he. As gender faded in M.E., it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before." The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized
position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," "is only heard in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1611; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, meaning "the one who must tag the others" is attested from 1842.