Hootenanny is an Appalachian colloquialism that was used in early twentieth century America to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. In this usage it was synonymous with thingamajig or whatchamacallit, as in "hand me that hootenanny." Hootenanny was also an old country word for "party". Nowadays the word most commonly refers to a folk-music party with an open mic, at which different performers are welcome to get up and play in front of an audience.
"Hootenanny" was also used by the leadership of early firefighting battalions to describe a "meeting of the minds" of higher ups or various department heads. The term has trickled down to working companies and is now used, with some frequency, at working incidents and other circumstances that require a focused discussion between key individuals. Most recently it was adopted for use during the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference. Logistics professionals for the conference employ the word to call together the required personnel needed to accomplish the prodigious assignments placed on them.
According to Pete Seeger, in various interviews, he first heard the word hootenanny in Seattle, Washington in the late 1930s. It was used by Hugh DeLacy’s New Deal political club  to describe their monthly music fund raisers.  After some debate the club voted in the word hootenanny, which narrowly beat out the word wingding. Seeger, Woody Guthrie and other members of the Almanac Singers later used the word in New York City to describe their weekly rent parties, which featured many notable folksingers of the time.  In a 1962 interview in Time, Joan Baez made the analogy that a hootenanny is to folk singing what a jam session is to jazz. 
During the early 1960s at the height of the Folk Music era, the club The Bitter End at 147 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village had hootenannies every Tuesday night, that featured an open mic and welcomed performers known and unknown, young and old.
The Hootenanny is an annual one-day rockabilly music festival held at the Oak Canyon Ranch in Irvine, California, which also incorporates a vintage car show.
For years there have been online Hootenannys. The most long-standing example is Small Talk At The Wall, which has been going since 1999.
- Surfin' Hootenanny is a surf pop/rock song written by Lee Hazlewood (tune) and Al Casey, and performed by Al Casey with The K-C-Ettes (aka The Blossoms). It opens the Al Casey's 1963. album Surfin' Hootenanny (issued as LP record by Sundazed Music Inc.). The song re-appeared in 1996. (in remastered version) as track 15 of Cowabunga! Set 2: Big Waves (1963.) compilation. Cowabunga! Set 2: Big Waves (1963.) is a second disc from Rhino Records' Cowabunga! The Surf Box 4 CD set compilation that contains most famous songs from the four-decade long history of surf music.
- The band Weezer had a Hootenanny tour in 2008 which allowed fans to play songs with the band.
- The album The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior by Rieflin, Gunn and Fripp contains a track entitled Hootenanny At The Pink Pussycat Cafe.
- Reggae legends The Wailers recorded a song called "Hoot Nanny Hoot", sung by Peter Tosh available on Peter Tosh's cd "The Toughest".
- Swedish sixties Folk band "Hootenanny Singers" included Björn Ulvaeus, who later was a member of ABBA.
- Belgian band Too Much and the White Nots released an album called "Hootenanny" in 2011.
Several different television shows are named and styled after it, including:
- Hootenanny, an early 1960s musical variety show broadcast on ABC in the United States. In 2007 a set of 3 DVDs called "The Best of Hootenanny" was issued, culled from the 1963-64 ABC-TV series. It contained clips of performances by The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Limeliters and The New Christy Minstrels, and even Woody Allen as a stand-up comedian.
- In 1963 and 1964 there was a BBC 1 show called "The Hoot'nanny Show", recorded in Edinburgh. Two albums with the same title were released, with contributions from Archie Fisher, Barney McKenna (before he joined The Dubliners), and The Corries.
- In the United Kingdom, Jools' Annual Hootenanny, a special New Year's Eve edition of Later... with Jools Holland featuring a wide selection of musicians, has been broadcast every year since 1993.
- In The Simpsons, season 20 episode 6 “Homer and Lisa exchange cross words”, it’s a word that has disappeared from the dictionary according to the organizers of the crossword tournament.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, the scoobies decide to throw Buffy a Hootenanny.
- In one of the cartoons starring Tex Avery as the narrator (farm of the future) near the end he describes that they crossed an owl and a goat, therefore a hoot-nanny (nanny being one term for a goat).
- ^ Hugh DeLacy papers, University of Washington libraries, Retrieved January 1, 2010
- ^ a b Hootenannies in Seattle, Stewart Hendrickson, Retrieved December 31, 2009
- ^ IMDB, Retrieved December 31, 2009
- ^ The History of the Bitter End, Retrieved December 31, 2009
- ^ "Petersen, Nils Holger, Music Practices around Bob Dylan, Medieval Rituals, and Modernity, Københavns, 2005 ISBN 978-87-635-0423-2". Mtp.hum.ku.dk. http://www.mtp.hum.ku.dk/details.asp?ELN=500106. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- ^ Wildside Records HLAH pages
- ^ Realism at Nonesuch Records]
- ^ http://tonyreespopdiaries4.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/page1.html