This is an English surname of ancient origins. First recorded in the county of Suffolk in the year 1327 when Richard Cle is so recorded in the pipe rolls of the county and far away in Gloucestershire in 1359 when William de Clee appears in the Letter Books of that county, this is a residential surname. It may topographical and derive from the pre 7th century Olde English word "clawu" meaning claw, but used in a transferred sense to describe a fork in a road or river, although it may also be from "claeg" meaning clay, and hence somebody who lived on clay soil, or more likely a clay bed used for pottery making. However it may also be locational, and originate either from the village of Clee in Lincolnshire, recorded as Cleia in the famous Domesday Book of 1086, or from Clee Hills in the county of Staffordshire, recorded as Clivas in 1232. Locational surnames are nearly always "from" names. That is to say names given to people after they left their original homes to move somewhere else. In medieval times it was considered that the easiest way to identify a stranger was to call him or sometimes her, by the name of the place from whence they came. Spelling being at best erratic and local dialects very thick, often lead to the development of "sounds like" spellings.
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