1590s, "power of hearing;" 1650s, "act of hearing, a listening," from French audicion "hearing (in a court of law)" and directly from Latin auditionem (nominative auditio) "a hearing, listening to," noun of action from past-participle stem of audire "to hear" (from PIE root *au- "to perceive"). Meaning "trial for a performer" first recorded 1881.
1935 (transitive) "give (an applicant for a performance part) a trial or test," from audition (n.). Intransitive sense "try out for a performance part" is from 1938. Related: Auditioned; auditioning.