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).
1580s, "act of keeping under authority and regulation, fact of checking and directing action," from control (v.). Meaning "a check, restraint" is from 1590s. Meaning "a standard of comparison in scientific experiments" is by 1857, probably from German Controleversuche. Airport control tower is from 1920; control-room is from 1897. Control freak "person who feels an obsessive need to have command of any situation" is by 1969.