1

As in "She gave him a "come-hither" look.

I found nothing except the date of first use (1925), which has no source.

  • 3
    Seems like a straightforward description which has ossified into a set phrase through persistent usage. Nothing particularly mysterious about it. I would be interested in seeing the examples of early use when it was already past the "simple descriptive" phase and transitioning into idiom. Or perhaps there was a single, exceptional use which popularized it. – Dan Bron Sep 14 '16 at 20:37
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    The "etymology" is merely employing the direct address Come hither as an adnominal to describe the look as one which "speaks" the invitation. It's very common; Google will show you a go away look, a help me look, an I've got this look, and (going back to the 19th century) a goodbye look. – StoneyB Sep 14 '16 at 20:56
4

The noun, 'come-hither', derives from the verbal phrase, 'come hither'. The first attestation as a noun shown in OED Online is from 1900:

come-hither, n.
colloq.
An invitation to approach, so fig. enticement. Chiefly in attrib. use, with look, eye, etc. Also as adv. (Cf. comether n.)

1900 Daily News 10 July 6/2 It's no' the money, and it's no' the looks. It's jist the come hither in the eye.

["come-hither, n.". OED Online. September 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/36850?rskey=ziZqlA&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed September 14, 2016).]

Much earlier attestation is readily found with contemporary popular news archive searches, wherein the noun is often used with 'put':

comehither1

(The Moreton Bay Courier, Brisbane, Qld., Wed 3 Aug 1859.)

In these uses the derivation from the verbal phrase is quite evident.

The noun form cross-referenced in OED Online, 'comether', represents a dialectal pronunciation of 'come-hither':

comether, n.
Etymology: A dialect pronunciation of come hither, used as a coaxing invitation to cows, horses, etc.
dial. or colloq.

In to put one's (the) comether on: to exercise persuasion or coaxing on, to persuade over, coax, wheedle; to get under one's influence.

1838 S. Lover Handy Andy ii. 22 He..looks pistols at any one that attempts putting his comether on the widow.

["comether, n.". OED Online. September 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/36878 (accessed September 14, 2016).]

An earlier attestation for 'comether' than that given by OED Online is also available through the aforementioned news archive searches:

comether1

(The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Tue 29 Dec 1835.)

Further investigation with specialized dialect resources may reveal regional sources (from the evidence shown, Ireland) as well as earlier attestations.

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