c.1200, "to call or shout in disapproval or scorn," related to houten, huten "to shout, call out" (early 13c.), probably imitative. First used of bird cries, especially that of the owl, mid-15c. The noun meaning "a laugh, something funny" is first recorded 1942. Slang sense of "smallest amount or particle" (esp. in don't give a hoot) is from 1878.