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  1. Machinery, Building Trades.
    1. a shaftlike tool with two or more cutting edges for making holes in firm materials, especially by rotation.
    2. a tool, especially a hand tool, for holding and operating such a tool.
  2. Military.
    1. training in formal marching or other precise military or naval movements.
    2. an exercise in such training: gun drill.
  3. any strict, methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise: a spelling drill.
  4. the correct or customary manner of proceeding.
  5. Also called snail bore. a gastropod, Urosalpinx cinera, that bores holes in shellfish, as oysters.
verb (used with object)
  1. to pierce or bore a hole in (something).
  2. to make (a hole) by boring.
  3. Military. to instruct and exercise in formation marching and movement, in the carrying of arms during formal marching, and in the formal handling of arms for ceremonies and guard work.
  4. to impart (knowledge) by strict training, discipline, or repetition.
verb (used without object)
  1. to pierce or bore something with or as with a drill.
  2. to go through exercise in military or other training.

Origin of drill1

1605–15; < Dutch dril (noun), drillen (v.)
Related formsdrill·a·ble, adjectivedrill·a·bil·i·ty, noundrill·er, nounun·drill·a·ble, adjective

Synonym study

3. See exercise.


  1. a small furrow made in the soil in which to sow seeds.
  2. a row of seeds or plants thus sown.
  3. a machine for sowing in rows and for covering the seeds when sown.
verb (used with object)
  1. to sow (seed) in drills.
  2. to sow or plant (soil, a plot of ground, etc.) in drills.
verb (used without object)
  1. to sow seed in drills.

Origin of drill2

1720–30; compare drill rill, German Rille furrow, rillen to groove
Related formsdrill·er, noun


  1. a strong, twilled cotton fabric.

Origin of drill3

First recorded in 1735–45; short for drilling2


  1. a large, baboonlike monkey, Mandrillus leucophaeus, of western Africa, similar to the related mandrill but smaller and less brightly colored: now endangered.

Origin of drill4

1635–45; of obscure origin; cf. mandrill
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for drill

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • In the meantime Simba, with great enthusiasm, continued his drill of the askaris.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • A full complement of men worked at every lathe, table, drill or saw.

  • Yet we dipped into that gold; we stuck the drill right down into it.

    Two Thousand Miles Below

    Charles Willard Diffin

  • His drill had told these beasts that there was other life above.

    Two Thousand Miles Below

    Charles Willard Diffin

  • But the defense was organized—a drill between three men and a river.

    The Flood

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for drill


  1. a rotating tool that is inserted into a drilling machine or tool for boring cylindrical holes
  2. a hand tool, either manually or electrically operated, for drilling holes
  3. military
    1. training in procedures or movements, as for ceremonial parades or the use of weapons
    2. (as modifier)drill hall
  4. strict and often repetitious training or exercises used as a method of teaching
  5. informal correct procedure or routine
  6. a marine gastropod mollusc, Urosalpinx cinera, closely related to the whelk, that preys on oysters
  1. to pierce, bore, or cut (a hole) in (material) with or as if with a drillto drill a hole; to drill metal
  2. to instruct or be instructed in military procedures or movements
  3. (tr) to teach by rigorous exercises or training
  4. (tr) informal to hit (a ball) in a straight line at great speed
  5. (tr) informal to riddle with bullets
See also drill down
Derived Formsdrillable, adjectivedriller, noun

Word Origin

C17: from Middle Dutch drillen; related to Old High German drāen to turn


  1. a machine for planting seeds in rows or depositing fertilizer
  2. a small furrow in which seeds are sown
  3. a row of seeds planted using a drill
  1. to plant (seeds) by means of a drill
Derived Formsdriller, noun

Word Origin

C18: of uncertain origin; compare German Rille furrow



  1. a hard-wearing twill-weave cotton cloth, used for uniforms, etc

Word Origin

C18: variant of German Drillich, from Latin trilīx, from tri- + līcium thread


  1. an Old World monkey, Mandrillus leucophaeus, of W Africa, related to the mandrill but smaller and less brightly coloured

Word Origin

C17: from a West African word; compare mandrill
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for drill


"tool for making holes," 1610s, from Dutch dril, drille "a hole, instrument for boring holes," from drillen "to bore (a hole), turn around, whirl" (see drill (v.)).


"small furrow," 1727; also "machine for sowing seeds" (1731), from obsolete drill "rill, trickling stream" (1640s), of unknown origin; perhaps connected to drill (n.1).


"West African baboon species," 1640s, perhaps from a native word (cf. mandrill).


kind of coarse, twilled cloth, 1743, from French drill, from German drillich "heavy, coarse cotton or linen fabric," from Old High German adjective drilich "threefold," from Latin trilix (genitive trilicis) "triply twilled" (see trellis). So called in reference to the method of weaving it.


c.1600 (implied in drilling), from Dutch drillen "to bore (a hole), turn around, whirl," from Proto-Germanic *threljanan (cf. Middle High German drillen "to turn, round off, bore," Old Engish þyrel "hole"), from PIE *tere- "to turn, rub" (see throw (v.)). Sense of "to instruct in military exercise" is 1620s (also in Dutch drillen and in the Danish and German cognates), probably from the notion of troops "turning" in maneuvers. Extended noun sense of "the agreed-upon procedure" is from 1940. Related: Drilled.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper