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1520s, "mistress of a household, housewife," alteration of Middle English husewif (see housewife). Gradually broadened to mean "any woman or girl," and by 1650 was being applied to "a woman or girl who shows casual or improper behavior," and a general derogatory sense had overtaken the word by late 18c. "It is common to use housewife in a good, and huswife or hussy in a bad sense" [Johnson].