Definition: a dance performed by women that was once common in carnivals and fairs and marked by a sinuous and often suggestive twisting and shaking of the torso and limbs
There are a lot of different ways to spell hootchy-kootchy: you may use hootchie–kootchie, hootchy–kootch, hoochie-coochie, hoochy-koochy, or almost any other assembly of hoo- & koo- sounds. The origins of the word are about as clear as its orthography.
The earliest record we now have of hootchy being used in conjunction with kootchy is from 1874, in which the words are employed in a verse.
Ham fat! Ham fat!
Smokin’ in de pan,
Hootchy, cootchy, ham fat man,
Is the most popular refrain in this city just now. It is owing to the fact that Monday all the butcher shops closed business; hence the people have to fall back on ham, bacon, salt beef, salt and fresh fish, and dried beef.
—The Tiffin Tribune (Tiffin, OH), 28 May, 1874
The above refrain may have been the most popular in the city of Tiffin in 1874, but the bloom soon faded on that rose, and hootchy-kootchy soon began being used in other contexts, and with an occasionally puzzling variety of meanings.
Let no young man, however good a nurse, however, expert a goo-gooer and hootchy-kootchier, ever take a baby unless the doors and windows have been barred, and there is no way for the supposed mother to escape.
—The Westmoreland Recorder (Westmoreland, KS), 4 Oct. 1888
As fat and funny as formerly, Billy Rice looked like old times, though he said he only felt “hootchy kootchy.”
—The New York Herald (New York, NY), 3 Nov. 1885
By the end of the 19th century the dance known as the hootchy-kootchy had begun to scandalize the sorts of people who are prone to being scandalized by dances, and had achieved enough notoriety that the word was soon in extended common usage.
The enterprising woman charged ten cents for admission to the “museum” and then for an additional dime, visitors were admitted to an inner room where no less person than the ticketseller herself performed the dance known as the “Hootchy-Kootchy” first introduced on the Midway.
—Altoona Tribune (Altoona, PA), 30 Sept. 1895
”Come right in, ladies and gentleman,” said the hootchie koochie drummer … “and see the celebrated dance denounced by this morning’s NEWS AND OBSERVER.”
—The North Carolinian (Raleigh. NC), 31 Oct. 1895