1
archaic : dear, beloved
2
archaic : willing, glad

lief

2 of 2

adverb

: soon, gladly
I'd as lief go as not

Did you know?

Lief began as lēof in Old English and has since appeared in many literary classics, first as an adjective and then as an adverb. It got its big break in the epic poem Beowulf as an adjective meaning "dear" or "beloved." The adverb first appeared in the 13th century, and in 1390, it was used in John Gower's collection of love stories, Confessio Amantis. Since that time, it has graced the pages of works by William Makepeace Thackeray, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and D. H. Lawrence, among others. Today, the adjective is considered to be archaic and the adverb is used much less frequently than in days of yore. It still pops up now and then, however, in the phrases "had as lief," "would as lief," "had liefer," and "would liefer."

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English lief, lef, from Old English lēof; akin to Old English lufu love

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lief was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near lief

Cite this Entry

“Lief.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lief. Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

lief

adverb
ˈlēv,
ˈlēf
: soon sense 4, willingly
I would as lief go as not
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