This unusual name has two possible origins, the first of which is derived from the Old English pre 7th Century word "leof", meaning "dear, beloved", used as an affectionate nickname 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 London in the 14th Century. The derivation here is from the Middle English "leaf", leaf. The modern surname can be found as "leefe", "leaf(e)", "Lief", "Leif", "life", and "Liff". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Godwin Lief, which was dated 1198, in the "Norfolk Pipe Rolls", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. 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.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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