- Recorded in several spellings including Leaf, Leafe, Leefe, Life, Liff, Leif, Leaves and Leavis, this is usually an English surname. It has several possible origins. The first is derived from the Old English pre 7th century word "leof", meaning dear or beloved, and as such was an early baptismal name. Later in the Middle Ages it was also used as an affectionate nickname similar to Dear or Darling, which in themselves became relatively popular surnames. Secondly it may have been a topographical nickname for a forester or woodman, one who lived in a "leafy" area, as in the recording of one Robert Intheleaves, in the London charters of the 14th Century. Thirdly it may be a short form of the early Swedish ornamental names such as Lovberg meaning leaf hill, Lovdahl, leaf valley, or Lovquist, leaf twig. 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. 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.
Surnames reference. 2013.