This most interesting and unusual surname may be of Anglo-Saxon or Old German origin. Firstly, it may be a variant of a topographical name from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "claeg", clay, given to a dweller on or by the clayey soil. This element is also found in "Clee", a place in Shropshire. Secondly, there is a possibility that the surname may have derived as a variant of "kless, klesse", from the Germanic medieval personal name "Klaus", an aphetic form of "Nicklaus". Niklaus itself derives from the Greek personal name "Nikolaos", composed of "nikan", to conquer, and "laos", people. Early examples of the surname include the christening of Niclas Cless on April 11th 1540, at Hassen-Nassua (Germany); the marriage of Jane Clisse and Edmund Webb on September 20th 1582, at Painswick in Gloucestershire; the marriage of Edeth Clisse and Henry Flower on June 15th 1635, at St. Giles', Cripplegate, London; the christening of Theoderus Kless on July 25th 1668, at Emmerich, Rheinland; and the marriage of William Cliss and Ann Seyer on March 25th 1732, at Rodborough, Gloucestershire. A Coat of Arms was granted to a Cless family in Tyrol, depicting two lions rampant, silver and red counterchanged. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Paulus Cless, which was dated April 11th 1540, a christening witness at Frankfurt am Main, Hassen-Nassua, during the reign of Emperor Charles V, Hapsburg Emperor, 1519 - 1558. 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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