early 15c., countrollen, "to check the accuracy of, verify; to regulate," from Anglo-French contreroller "exert authority," from Medieval Latin contrarotulus "a counter, register," from Latin contra "against" (see contra) + rotulus, diminutive of rota "wheel" (see roll (n.)). The word apparently comes from a medieval method of checking accounts by a duplicate register.
Un contrerollour qui doit contre roller au tresorere de la garderobe toutz lez receitez. [Household ordinances of Edward II, c. 1310]
Sense of "dominate, direct, exercise control over" is from mid-15c. Related: Controlled; controlling. Control group in scientific experiments is attested from 1952 (from a sense of control attested since 1875).