Word Origin & History
1530, aphetic form of atwite, from O.E. ætwitan "to blame, reproach," from æt "at" + witan "to blame," from P.Gmc. *witanan (cf. O.E. wite, O.S. witi, O.N. viti "punishment, torture;" O.H.G. wizzi "punishment," wizan "to punish;" Du. verwijten, O.H.G. firwizan, Ger. verweisen "to reproach,
reprove," Goth. fraweitan "to avenge"), from PIE base *weid- "to see." For sense evolution, cf. L. animadvertere, lit. "to give heed to, observe," later "to chastise, censure, punish." The noun meaning "foolish, stupid and ineffectual person" is first attested 1934 in British slang, popular 1950s-60s, crossed over to U.S. with British sitcoms. It probably developed from the verb sense of "reproach" but may be influenced by nitwit.