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a tool used for making a hole in something. A drill that uses electricity is called an electric drill and a drill that works when you turn a handle is called a hand drill.

Origin and usage

The word drill came into use in the early 1600s and derives from the Middle Dutch word ‘drillen’, meaning to bore or turn in a circle.


The modern-day drill developed from a tool known as an awl, which originally consisted of a sharp stone attached to a stick and was used to make holes by hand. These later developed into strap drills, which had a length of leather cord wrapped around the shaft of an awl. It was used by pulling backwards and forwards to make the tip move faster. Bow drills, which have a wooden accessory attached to speed up the drilling process, have been commonly used for centuries and were even used by the ancient Egyptians. Hand drills, used from 1816 onwards, have a handle attached to a drive gear that made the drill spin even faster, making it easier to bore holes. This eventually led to the invention of the electric drill in 1889 by Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain.

The word drill can also refer to a technique, exercise or military manoeuvre that is taught by repetitive routines. This is called a drill because the action is performed exactly the same way over and over again, going in circles like the tip of a drill, until the manoeuvre is perfect.


“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

(Ernest Hemingway)

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

(C.S. Lewis)


bit, tool

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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