mid-14c., enginour, "constructor of military engines," from Old French engigneor "engineer, architect, maker of war-engines; schemer" (12c.), from Late Latin ingeniare (see engine); general sense of "inventor, designer" is recorded from early 15c.; civil sense, in reference to public works, is recorded from c. 1600 but not the common meaning of the word until 19c (hence lingering distinction as civil engineer). Meaning "locomotive driver" is first attested 1832, American English. A "maker of engines" in ancient Greece was a mekhanopoios.
1818, "act as an engineer," from engineer (n.). Figurative sense of "arrange, contrive, guide or manage (via ingenuity or tact)" is attested from 1864, originally in a political context. Related: Engineered. Middle English had a verb engine "contrive, construct" (late 14c.), also "seduce, trick, deceive" (c. 1300) and "put to torture."