Recorded in many forms including Aylif, Ayliff, Eliff, and Iliff, this interesting and unusual surname is English. It has two possible originations. Firstly, it may derive from the Middle English female personal name "Ayleve", Olde English "Aethelgifu", composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century elements "aethel", noble, and "gifu", gift, which was borne by a daughter of King Alfred the Great, who became the abbess of Shaftesbury. However, in some instances, the surname may also have originated from the Old Norse personal name "Eilifr", composed of the elements "ei", always, and "lifr", life. The surname from the former source first appears in the late 12th Century (see below), while other early recordings from this source include Robert Aylgive (Worcestershire, 1275), and Edelina Ayleve (Huntingdonshire, 1275). From the latter source one Nicholas Eiluf appears in the Assize Court Rolls of Warwickshire of 1221, while other early examples are Julian Aylif (Oxford, 1279), and Geoffrey Ayllef (Suffolk, 1327). William, son of John Iliff, was baptised in 1640, at St. James', Clerkenwell, London, while Anne Iliffe married Nicholas Davies on November 29th 1675, at St. Dunstan's, Stepney, London. The Coat of Arms most associated with the family depicts on a black shield a silver lion rampant collared red, between three gold crosses pattee, with the Motto "Vive ut vivas", (Live that you may live). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Segarus Aileves, which was dated 1188, in the "Kalendar of Abbot Samson of Bury St. Edmunds", Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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