“Drift” is an interesting English word, because it is a word that has evolved to be the opposite of its origin word, being a type of autoantonym.

According to the online etymology dictionary, “drift” is either cognate with, or derived from, a number of Germanic words, all related to the English word “drive”. The English word “Drive”, itself, has changed meaning because its most common modern usage is “to pilot an automobile”, but its original meanings centered around pushing or moving something.

Starting in the early 1300s, “drift” picked up meanings over the years, and not necessarily in the order that someone would guess. The meaning of “a general aim” dates to the 1500s, the meaning of a “off course ship” comes from the 1600s, and the meaning of “passively moving through life” comes from the 1800s. Applying it to race cars, of course, only came in the 1900s.

The drift in meaning of the word means that its modern usage usually refers to something that is moving slowly, or moving without motivation of its own. On the other hand, the related word “driven” usually refers to someone who is strongly self-motivated. Thus, we have “He is just drifting through life” (where drift is a present continuous verb) to mean an unmotivated person, and “He is driven to succeed” (where “driven” is an adjective) to mean a strongly motivated person.

Language does things like that.