an owl ...1682 obs. exc. Eng. dial.
from hob (n. a variation of the Christian name Robert or Robin, hence formerly a generic name for a rustic, a clown) + houchin (n. an owl)
FIRST DOCUMENTED USE
1682 - see EXAMPLE below
"...How would you sneak, vile Souls, if at the Barr,
My daily sport, you met with horrid Warr?
How would you stand a tedious Chanc'ry Hearing,
If poor Hobhowchin puts you in this fearing?
How would your hearts misgive to bide a Triall,
No Friend at Hand, nor in your Purse a Ryall?..."
From: Le Lutrin an Heroick Poem
- Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux
Translated by N.O.