"dearly, gladly, willingly" (obsolete or archaic), c. 1250, from Middle English adjective lief "esteemed, beloved, dear," from Old English leof "dear, valued, beloved, pleasant" (also as a noun, "a beloved person, friend"), from Proto-Germanic *leuba- (source also of Old Norse ljutr, Old Frisian liaf, Dutch lief, Old High German liob, German lieb, Gothic liufs "dear, beloved"), from PIE root *leubh- "to care, desire, love."
Often with the dative and in personal constructions with have or would in expressions of choice or preference (and yet, to say the truth, I had as lief have the foppery of freedom, as the morality of imprisonment; "Measure for Measure"). I want and I'd love to are overworked and misused to fill the hole left in the language when I would lief faded in 17c.
updated on July 28, 2018
Dictionary entries near lief