c. 1500, a spelling variant of draught (q.v.) to reflect change in pronunciation. By the end of the 19c. it was the established form in the military, commercial, and many technical sentences, and it is now almost universal in American English as conforming to the pronunciation.
The meaning "rough copy of a writing" (something "drawn") is attested from 14c.; that of "preliminary sketch from which a final copy is made" is from 1520s; that of "flow of a current of air" is from c. 1770. Of beer from the 1830s, in reference to the method of "drawing" it from the cask. Sense in bank draft is from 1745. The meaning "a drawing off a group for special duty" is from 1703, in U.S. especially of military service; the verb in this sense first recorded 1714. Related: Drafted; drafting.