late 14c., "small vessel used in assaying precious metals," from Old French test, from Latin testum "earthen pot," related to testa "piece of burned clay, earthen pot, shell" (see tete).
Sense of "trial or examination to determine the correctness of something" is recorded from 1590s. The connecting notion is "ascertaining the quality of a metal by melting it in a pot." Test Act was the name given to various laws in English history meant to exclude Catholics and Nonconformists from office, especially that of 1673, repealed 1828. Test drive (v.) is first recorded 1954.
1748, "to examine the correctness of," from test (n.), on the notion of "put to the proof." Earlier "assay gold or silver" in a test (c. 1600). Meaning "to administer a test" is from 1939; sense of "undergo a test" is from 1934. Related: Tested; testing.
"one who tests, puts to trial, or assays," 1660s, agent noun from test (v.). Earlier "a crucible" for trying metals by heating them (mid-15c.).
1963, short for Papanicolaou (1947) in reference to George Nicholas Papanicolaou (1883-1962), Greek-born U.S. anatomist who developed the technique of examining secreted cells to test for cancer.
mid-14c., "trial, test of quality, test of character," from Anglo-French assai, ultimately from Late Latin exagium "a weighing" (see essay (n.)). The meaning "trial of purity of a metal" is from late 14c.