late 14c., "official in charge of accounts in a king's household," from Anglo-French contrerolleour (late 13c.), Old French contrerelleor (Modern French contrôleur), from Medieval Latin contrarotulator, agent noun from *contra-rotulare (see control (v.)).
Broader sense of "officer who examines accounts and manages finances of a corporation or institution" is from c. 1400. The first syllable was confused with count (v.), Latin comptus (hence comptroller). Mechanical sense "that which governs or restrains" is from 1867.
updated on March 18, 2018