This interesting and unusual name is of Old Norse origin, and is one of that large group of English surnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames or bynames. In this instance the modern surname "Scaife", also found as "Skaife" and "Scafe", derived from an Old Norse byname, "Skeifr", awry, difficult, originally acquired by someone with wild, uncontrolled hair, or by someone who was thought to be particularly awkward or difficult. The term was adopted into Northern Middle English as "skafe", with the meaning of "crooked, wild, awkward". One Robert Scafe is recorded in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York, of 1418, and other recordings of the surname in Yorkshire include John Scaiphe (1562) and Anthonye Scaiffe (1647). The marriage of William Scaife and Mary Hardcastle was recorded at Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire, on June 30th 1655. A Coat of Arms granted to a Scaife family in Newcastle-on-Tyne, depicts six silver escallops, three, two, one, on a red shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Skaif, which was dated 1219, witness in the "Assize Court Rolls of Yorkshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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