Recorded in many forms including Hof, Hofer, Hoff, Harhof, Haarhoff, and Harhoff, Hofler, Hoffmann, Hofner, Van den Hoff, Vandenhoff, Vandenhof, Van Hove, Van't Hoff, and others, this is a surname of Germanic and Dutch residential origins. It derives from the pre 7th century word 'hof' meaning a settlement or farm, and hence a person who worked or lived at such a place. Not surprisingly as most people in ancient times would have lived at or been associated with farming, the placename and the surname are widely recorded both in Europe and South Africa. When found with the prefix 'Haar or har', it means 'Little (farm)'. Locational or residential surnames were often 'from' names. That is to say that they identified a person who had formerly lived at a particular place. Spelling being at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, lead to the development of many 'sounds like' spellings over the centuries. In this case we do have some very early surname examples taken from surviving olls and charters of German cities. These include: Konrad Hofer of Konstanz in 1272, Burchardus de Hoff also of Konstanz in 1294, and Berthold Hovelech of Mergentheim in 1298. Later examples are Barbara Harhoffs of Ruethen, Westfalen, on April 18th 1649, and Catherine Harhoff at Soest, also Westfalen, on January 1st 1683.
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