Recorded in a number of spellings including Detloff, Dethloff, and Tetloff (German), and Detleff and Deetlefs (South African), this is a surname of ancient origins. It is Germanic, and derives from the pre 7th century personal name Teudulf, for which the literal meaning would seem to be "gentle wolf". However "gentle" is not a term usually associated with "wolf", and even less so in surnames from personal names, whose origins lie in the Dark Ages of history between the 5th and the 11th century a.d. At this time it was usual to give names to children of a sort that glorified the more brutal, or perhaps heroic, aspects of a wolf's behaviour, dependant on one's point of view. This surname is recorded in the German charters in 1642 with that of Matthaus Detloff of Rastenburg, Ost Preussen, whilst Gottfried Tetloff of Colberg appears in the charters for that town in 1757. German records are rather erratic, and it may well be that earlier examples are to be found in unpublished works. This surname is however one of the very first ever recorded in South Africa. In 1710 Regina Deetlof married Jacobus van Eeden at Cape Town, whilst nearly a century later on November 23rd 1800, Nickolaas Deetlefs married Marie du Buisson at Stellenbosch, also Cape of Good Hope.
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