An entertaining stroll through some of the many and varied theories concerning the origin by Jeffrey Graf, a reference librarian at the Herman B. Wells Library, Indiana University - Bloomington.
Take with a huge pinch of salt his own theory though.
As for the word itself, it probably derives from the Saxon word “hoo” meaning promontory or cliff or ridge or rise or hill. Jacob Dunn, a diligent scholar of the word, believes a Saxon beginning, and such a meaning survives in various place names in England. There is some sense in the notion, too, that those who applied the insult and those to whom it was applied (and who understood it) came primarily from British stock.
The word ‘probably’ is completely inappropriate in that first sentence. That apart though, he does go into exhaustive and well-annotated detail on the word’s usage and history. Interesting stuff.
Also, of course, on Dave’s Big List.. Dave gives a clearly attested 1831 cite and one from 1827, the accuracy of which is in doubt. Both predate the 1833 cite on the webpage above.
OED (which gives ‘unknown’ for the etymology) has an even earlier cite than those above, but I’m a little puzzled by it.
1826 in Chicago Tribune (1949) 2 June 20/3 The Indiana hoosiers that came out last fall is settled from 2 to 4 milds of us.
What exactly does that mean? That the cite appears in a 1949 Chicago Tribune and is attributed to 1826?