Where did the "wolf whistle" come from?

My wife just asked me where the “wolf whistle” came from. The whistle that a person makes to indicate that someone is attractive or “hot.”

This reminds me that when I was a child, we used to call pictures of naked women “foo foo” women because I could not do a wolf whistle yet and that was the closest approximation I could get.

But I looked up a few links online and while there is general agreement on what a wolf whistle is and what it means, I cannot find anything about the origin or why it came about.

Anyone here have any ideas?


I am not an expert but was curious myself after reading your question and a quick google search brought me to Whistling in Antiquity, which had this to say:

*Finally there is one other application of whistling for nonverbal expression which occurs in the modern world and seems to have been practised in almost exactly the same way in antiquity. Unfortunately the evidence for the existence of the notorious wolf-whistle, communicating sexual interest mainly by males of the human species, is very scant for the Greek and Roman past. It consists of only one episode in Plautus’ Mercator (403-408). Here the father Demipho says to his son Charinus with reference to the beautiful slavegirl they both secretly love and whom the son pretends to have bought for his mother: “I can’t permit it. She is hardly the proper sort of person to attend your mother.” Char.: “Why not?” Dem.: “Because it would cause scandal if such a beauty were the attendant of a wife and mother; when she passes through the streets all the men would look at her, leer, nod and wink and whistle (sibilent).” *

Rest of the text.

I was looking up where the term “wolf whistle” came from, because I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the segment in this video starting at 4:12 :

Partway through the segment, the narrator states:

Then the GI on-screen gives the classic wolf-whistle.

Google n-grams shows that the term didn’t start being used until the early 40s

An earlier segment in this newsreel talks about an army division called the timberwolves who were returning from Europe after the Nazis had been defeated.

Interesting. Thanks.

Total WAG here. There are certain “yummy sounds” (to quote from Young Frankenstein) that people tend to make when they really like something. The wolf whistle seems to me to be an approximation of one version of the yummy sound. (Alternately, imagine someone saying “OoooooOOOH, BAby!!” – the wolf whistle is like an imitation of that.)

As such, I imagine it’s been around a long time. If it were a song, it would have “(Trad.)” after it.

I’ve heard that it was invented by Tex Avery


Well, I think it is simply a phrase a writer came up with. A guy ogling a woman is sometimes referred to a “wolf” and the noises he makes to get the woman to notice him are the “wolf’s whistles.” Even if they aren’t technically whistles. “Whoop whoop! Hey good lookin! Wanna go for a ride in my new car!!” Well, colloquially, that is a form of a wolf whistle.