"pierce or make a hole in with a drill or similar tool," c. 1600 (implied in drilling), from Dutch drillen "to bore (a hole), turn around, whirl," from Proto-Germanic *thr- (source also of Middle High German drillen "to turn, round off, bore," Old English þyrel "hole"), from PIE root *tere- (1) "to rub, turn," with derivatives referring to twisting, boring, and drilling. Related: Drilled, drilling. Compare thrill, the native English form of the word. Drill-press "drilling machine for boring holes in metal" is by 1850.
"to instruct in military exercise," 1620s (a sense also found in Dutch drillen and the Danish and German cognates), probably from drill (v.1) on the notion of troops "turning" in maneuvers. Related: Drilled, drilling.
As a noun, "act of training soldiers in military tactics," 1630s; the extended sense of "the agreed-upon procedure" is by 1940. Drill-sergeant "non-commissioned officer who instructs soldiers in their duties and trains them in military movements" is by 1760. Drill-master "one who gives practical instructions in military tactics" is by 1766.
1722, originally nautical, also close-fights, "bulkheads fore and aft for men to stand behind in close engagements to fire on the enemy," it reflects the confusion of close (v.) and close (adj.); "now understood of proximity, but orig. 'closed' space on ship-board where last stand could be made against boarders" [Weekley]. Compare also closed-minded (1880s), a variant of close-minded, as if "shut" rather than "tight," also closed-fisted, occasional variant of close-fisted "stingy."
The origin, foundation and principle of mail order trading is universally recognized as wrong. It was conceived in iniquity and brought forth in despair as the world's greatest destructive medium. Mail Order Trading was born in the brain of knaves and thieves who fired their building for insurance profits, then sold the salvaged and damaged stock to the unsuspecting sons of man in distant territory. [Thomas J. Sullivan, "Merchants and Manufacturers on Trial," Chicago, 1914]