Old English drifan "to drive, force, hunt, pursue; rush against" (class I strong verb; past tense draf, past participle drifen), from Proto-Germanic *dribanan (cf. Old Frisian driva, Old Saxon driban, Dutch drijven, Old High German triban, German treiben, Old Norse drifa, Gothic dreiban "to drive"). Not found outside Germanic. Original sense of "pushing from behind," altered in Modern English by application to automobiles. Related: Driving.