Recorded as Ayliff, Ayliffe, Ayloff, Eliffe, Life, Liffe, Liffey, Lyfe, Lyffe, and possibly others, this is an English surname, which although sometimes recorded in Ireland, has no connection with the famous River Liffey. It has two possible origins, both being personal names. The first is from the Olde English pre 7th century name "Aethelgifu", meaning "noble-gift" and the name of a daughter of King Alfred, the Great, of England. She ultimately became the abbess of Shaftesbury Abbey. The second is from a pre 5th century Old Norse name, "Eilifr", also by some coincidence meaning "noble gift", or possibly "eternal life", both meanings which no doubt contributed to its great popularity. The surname was first recorded in the late 12th Century, and one Aenaed Fitz-Aluf was the sheriff of London in the year 1198, whilst Nicholas Eilof also recorded as Ailof appears in the Warwickshire rolls of 1221, and John Lyfe at St Botolophs Bishopgate, in the city of London, in 1573. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Segarus Aileves. This was dated 1188, in the Calendar of Abbot Samson of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, and during the reign of King Henry 11nd. He was sometimes known as "The Church Builder", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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