First of all, did you all have a nice Leap Year? Something about the day being shoved in there once every four years amuses me. Anyway. That’s not what you came for.
Everyone knows what drugs are. Whether medicinal or otherwise, they’re chemical substances ingested by the body. Usually, this word has a negative connotation. “Drug” is something illegal, while “meds” or “pills” means the kind of stuff you’re supposed to have (with a prescription, of course). But it’s only in recent years that drug has come to mean the bad stuff.
The word drug showed up in the late fourteenth century with the same basic meaning as we know today. It comes from droge, an Old French (ninth to thirteenth centuries) word for provision. It gets a little hazy there, but Middle Low German (twelfth to fourteenth century) has droge waere, which means dry wares. Old French may have picked it up during the period the two languages coexisted, and then it continued to evolve when French moved into the Middle period.
So the word started as dried provisions, then just provisions, then when English was forming, it was appropriated to mean medicines.
Overall, not a unique story. Definitions are constantly evolving.
Hm, evolve is an interesting word…(and the process begins again)
Online Etymology Dictionary