Recorded in many spellings including Cuncliffe, Cundliffe, Cunniffe, Cunnliffe, Condliffe, Coniff, and others, this is an English surname. It is locational from a hamlet north west of Rishton in the county of Lancashire now called Cunliffe. The place name appears as "Kuneclive" in the Pipe Rolls of Lancashire for the year 1246, and later as "Cundcliff", being so called from the Olde English pre 7th century word "cunde", meaning a cleft, plus "clif", a steep slope, and hence "The cleft in the cliff". Locational surnames were often given either to the local lord of the manor or 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. In this case early examples of recordings include those of Adam de Cuncliffe, in Baines History of Lancashire for the year 1317; Christabal Conliffe, of Altham, given as being a widow, appears in the Wills Records at Chester in 1595, and Nicholas Cunliffe, of Lancashire, who was a student at Oxford University in 1606. In the early surviving church registers Alice Cuncliffe was christened at Altham, Lancashire, on July 14th 1614, Susannah Coniff at St Andrews Holborn, on October 3rd 1771, and Sophia Cunniff who married Henry Finch at St Pancras Old Church, city of London on May 9th 1852. A coat of arms granted to the family has the blazon of a black shield charged with three silver conies, the crest being a silver greyhound, and the motto, "Fideliter", meaning Faithfully. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Cundeclif which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Yorkshire". This was during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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