Old English drifan "to compel or urge to move, impel in some direction or manner; to hunt (deer), pursue; to rush against" (class I strong verb; past tense draf, past participle drifen), from Proto-Germanic *dreibanan (source also of Old Frisian driva"I lead, impel, drive (away)," Old Saxon driban, Dutch drijven, Old High German triban, German treiben, Old Norse drifa, Gothic dreiban "to drive"), perhaps from PIE root *dhreibh- "to drive, push," but it may be a Germanic isolated word.
Used in Old English of nails, ships, plows, vehicles, cattle; in Middle English of bargains. Meaning "compel or incite to action or condition of any kind" (drive mad) is by late 12c. Sense of "work with energy, labor actively" is c. 1200; that of "aim a blow" is by early 14c.. Transitive meaning "convey (someone) in a carriage," later an automobile, is from 1660s. The original sense of "pushing from behind" was altered in Modern English by application to automobiles. Related: Driving.
MILLER: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are." ["Repo Man," 1984]
1690s, "an act of driving, the action of driving," from drive (v.). Sense of "course upon which carriages are driven" is from 1816 (hence its use in road and street names). Meaning "an excursion by vehicle" is from 1785.
Golfing sense of "forcible blow" is from 1836; in cricket from 1827, later also in baseball. Meaning "organized effort to raise money" is by 1889, American English. Sense of "dynamism" is from 1908. As a motor engine transmission lever position, by 1963. The computing sense "location capable of storing and reading a disk, etc." is by 1963.
1570s, of snow, "carried and gathered in heaps by the wind," past-participle adjective from drive (v.). Meaning "motivated" is by 1972.