c.1600, of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle French pimpant "alluring in dress, seductive," present participle of pimper "to dress elegantly" (16c.), from Old French pimpelorer, pipelorer "decorate, color, beautify." Weekley suggests Middle French pimpreneau, defined in Cotgrave (1611) as "a knave, rascall, varlet, scoundrell," but Liberman is against this.
The word also means "informer, stool pigeon" in Australia and New Zealand and in South Africa, where by early 1960s it existed in Swahili form impimpsi. Pimpmobile first recorded 1973 (six years before Popemobile).