1580s, "pen or enclosure for horses or cattle," from Spanish corral, from corro "ring," Portuguese curral, a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps ultimately African, or from Vulgar Latin *currale "enclosure for vehicles," from Latin currus "two-wheeled vehicle," from currere "to run," from PIE root *kers- "to run." In U.S. history, "wide circle of the wagons of an ox- or mule-train formed for protection at night by emigrants crossing the plains" (1848).
1847, "to drive into a corral," from corral (n.). From 1848 as "to form a circle with wagons." Meaning "to lay hold of, collar, capture, make a prisoner of" is U.S. slang from 1860. Related: Corralled.