early 15c., "draw (objects or persons) to oneself," also a medical term for the body's tendency to absorb fluids, nourishment, etc., or for a poultice treatment to "draw out" diseased matter; from Latin attractus, past participle of attrahere "to draw, pull; to attract," from assimilated form of ad "to" (see ad-) + trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)).
Of physical forces (magnets, etc.), from 17c. Figurative sense of "be attractive, draw to oneself the eyes or attentions of others" is from 1690s. Related: Attracted; attracting.