This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and has two possible interpretations. Firstly, the surname may be a locational name from Cliff in Hampshire and Warwickshire, North and South Cliff in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Cliffe in Kent, King's Cliffe in Northamptonshire or Cliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire. All these places share the same meaning and derivation, which is from the Old English pre 7th century "clif", slope, bank, cliff. The Old English word was used not only in the sense of the modern English "cliff" but also of much gentler slopes, and frequently also of a riverbank.Locational surnames were developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace. The surname may also be a topographical name from the same word used independently. Topographical surnames were some of the earliest to be created, as topographical features, whether natural or man-made, provided obvious and convenient means of identification. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 11th century (see below), and has many variant spellings ranging from Cliffe, Clive and Cleave, Cleeves, Cleve, Cleef, Cleft and Clift. John Clif is noted in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire (1279). Henry de Cliff was canon of York in 1324. The marriage of Thomas Cliff and Anne Greene took place in St. Alphage's, Greenwich, Kent, on September 8th 1633. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gislebertus de Cliua, which was dated 1084, in the "Geld Rolls of Wiltshire" (part of the Domesday Book), during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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