Recorded in various spellings including Cliff, Cliffe, Clive, Cleave, Cleaves, Cleef, Cleeve, Cleve, Clift, Clifft, and Cleft, this is an English surname. It has two possible origins. The first is locational from places called Cliff in the counties of Hampshire and Warwickshire, or North and South Cliff in the East Riding of Yorkshire, as well as Cliffe in Kent, King's Cliffe in Northamptonshire and 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 word "clif", meaning a very steep slope, or a cleft in the hills.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 second origin is topographical and was used independently to describe a person who lived by a cliff. Topographical surnames were amongst the earliest created, as natural or man-made features such as cliffs, castles, walls and streets, provided obvious and convenient means of identification. This surname is truly ancient and one of the first ever recorded as shown below. Other early recordings include John Clif, a landowner, in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in1279, whilst Henry de Cliff was canon of York in 1324, and Richard Clyft appears in the Subsidy Tax rolls for Sufflok in 1524. The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Gislebertus de Cliua, and dated 1084, in the Geld Rolls of Wiltshire. This was part of the famous Domesday Book. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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