Recorded as Keve, Keeve, Keave, the patronymics Keaves, Keeves, Keves, and possibly others, this is apparently an English surname. We have to say 'apparently' because although the surname is well recorded in England since at least Tudor times, its origins are not obvious. There is no such word in the English dictionary as keave or keeve, or indeed anything quite like it. It has been suggested that it may be a derivation of the Irish O'Keefe or Keefe, but few if any Irish surnames were recorded in England before the 17th century. Another suggestion which finds some favour is as an Anglicized fused derivation of the French phrase 'Qui vivre'. French was the official language of England for three centuries after the Conquest, and a great many words and phrases passed into common use. 'Qui vivre' was a challenge made by sentries and watchkeepers to approaching persons. In the famous Peninsula War of 1808 - 1814 it was used by both sides, which must have lead to some confusion. The call in use means 'Whose side are you on?', although the literal translation is 'Long live who?', whilst to keep the 'Qui vivre' is to keep a sharp lookout. Early examples of the recordings from surviving registers of the city of London include Jane Keeve who married Thomas Reynolds at St Botolphs Bishopgate, on June 23rd 1565, and William Reeves who married Sybil Walker, at St Katherines by the Tower (of London) on August 29th 1682.
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