Recorded in a number of spellings including Adolph, Ahlf, and Alf, patronymics such as Alfs, Adolfsen, Adolfson, diminutives including Adin, Adolfi, Adolfini, Adolthin, and Adolthine, this is a surname of early Germanic origins, which is also recorded in its different forms in Italy and Sweden. It originates from the pre 7th century personal name Adalwulf, which translates literally as "Noble-wolf". The wolf was an animal much respected in ancient times for its cunning and ferocity, and as Wulf and Ulf it is recorded regularly both in its own right as a personal name, and as with this name, as an element in a compound spelling. The name was also dynastic, being held by the noble families of the states of Holstein and Nassau. Not surprisingly the surname is one of the earliest recorded in surviving German rolls and charters. Probably the earliest known example is that of Herbordus Adolfi of Obergansform, being recorded there in the year 1271, whilst shortly afterwards in 1303, we have the recording of Heinricus Adolf of Mainz in the annals of that city.
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