RATH'ER, adverb [I would rather go, or sooner go. The use is taken from pushing or moving forward.] [Latin ante, before.] But he said, yea rather happy are they that hear the word of God and keep it. Luke 11:28]
1. More readily or willingly; with better liking; with preference or choice.
My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life. Job 7:15.
2. In preference; preferably; with better reason. Good is rather to be chosen than evil. See Acts 5:29.
3. In a greater degree than otherwise.
He sought throughout the world, but sought in vain, and no where finding, rather fear'd her slain.
4. More properly; more correctly speaking.
This is an art which does mend nature, change it rather; but the art itself is nature.
5. Noting some degree of contrariety in fact.
She was nothing better, but rather grew worse. Mark 5:26.
The rather especially; for better reason; for particular cause.
You are come to me in a happy time, the rather for I have some sport in hand.
Had rather is supposed to be a corruption of would rather
I had rather speak five words with my understanding - 1 Corinthians 14:19. This phrase may have been originally, 'I'd rather ' for I would rather and the contraction afterwards mistaken for had. Correct speakers and writers generally use would in all such phrases; I would rather I prefer; I desire in preference.