This ancient surname, with spellings which include Cuncliffe, Cundliffe and Cunnliffe, is of early English origins. It is locational from a hamlet north west of Rishton in the county of Lancashire now called Cunliffe. The place name appears as "Kuneclive" in the Pipe Rolls of Lancashire for the year 1246, and later as "Cundcliff", being so called from the Olde English pre 7th century word "cunde", meaning a cleft, plus "clif", a steep slope; hence, "the cleft slope". Locational surnames were often given either to the local lord of the manor or developed when former inhabitants of a place moved to another area, usually to seek work, and were best identified by the name of their birthplace.In this case early examples of recordings include those of Adam de Cuncliffe, in Baines History of Lancashire for the year 1317; Christabal Cunliffe, of Altham, given as being a widow, appears in the Wills Records at Chester in 1595, and Nicholas Cunliffe, of Lancashire, who was a student at Oxford University in 1606, whilst in the surviving church registers of Lancashire Alice Cuncliffe was christened at Altham, on July 14th 1614. A coat of arms granted to the family has the blazon of a black shield charged with three silver conies, the crest being a silver greyhound, and the motto, Fideliter, meaning Faithfully. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Cundeclif which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Yorkshire". This was during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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