Recorded as Leefe, Leafe, Leaf, Leif, Leifer, Life and Liff, this unusual English surname has two possible origins. The first is derived from the Old English pre 7th century word "leof", meaning "dear or beloved", and used as a personal name of endearment and later a surname such as Dear or Darling, or as part of various compound names with "Leof" as the first element and recorded as "leofa", masculine and "leofe", the feminine form. These are short forms of for example, "Leofric, composed of "leof" and "ric", meaning "power" and Leofwine, composed of "leof" and "wine", meaning "friend". The second possible origin is topographical and was used of someone living in a densely wooded area, as in one Robert Intheleaves, recorded in the p[ipe rolls of the city of London, in the 14th Century. The derivation here is from the Middle English word "leaf", which means what it says. As Leifer it is probably occupational for a woodman or forester. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Godwin Lief. This was dated 1198, in the pipe rolls of the county of Norfolk, during the reign of King Richard 1st of England, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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