Lief, adv. Gladly; willingly; freely; -- now used only in the phrases, had as lief, and would as lief; as, I had, or would, as lief go as not.
All women liefest wouldGower.
Be sovereign of man's love.
I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.Shak.
Far liefer by his dear hand had I die.Tennyson.
The comparative liefer with had or would, and followed by the infinitive, either with or without the sign to, signifies prefer, choose as preferable, would or had rather. In the 16th century rather was substituted for liefer in such constructions in literary English, and has continued to be generally so used. See
Had as lief,
Had rather, etc. , under Had.
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