This ancient topographical surname is English. It is similar to the more usual Sutcliffe, and is believed to be of West Country origin, although now recorded in other areas of the country. The origin is from the pre 7th century Olde English 'cund liffe' and literally translates as one who dwells in a valley or coombe between the cliffs. Early examples of the surname recording taken from surviving church registers of Devonshire from the late medieval period include Alexander Cutliffe who was baptised at Georgham, on August 26th 1561, Ann Cutcliff who was a witness at the town of Ilfracombe on the 9th July 1634, and Christopher Cutlif who married Catherine Nichols at Hartland on 13th April 1691. The first name holder was born at Dammage in Devon and studied at Toulouse in France. He was imprisoned and believed burnt at Avignon for criticising church abuses. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Cutcliffe in 1345. He was a Franciscan monk, also originally from Devonshire, during the reign of King Edward 111rd, and known as the Father of the English Navy, 1327 - 1377. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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