Word Origin & History
O.E. hem "a border," from P.Gmc. *khamjanan (cf. O.N. hemja "to bridle, curb," O.Fris. hemma "to hinder," M.Du., Ger. hemmen "to hem in, stop, hinder"), from the same root that yielded hamper and O.E. hamm, common in place names (where it means "enclosure, land hemmed in by water or high ground, land
in a river bend"). The phrase hem in "shut in, confine," first recorded 1538. Hem-line first attested 1923.
1470, probably imitative of the sound of clearing the throat. Hem and haw first recorded 1786, from haw "hesitation," first recorded 1632.