There are two possible sources of this interesting and unusual surname, the first being that it is of German origin and an English, generally Norfolk, cognate of the German word 'stab', meaning rod or a staff. In this instance, Staff is a metonymic occupational name for anyone who carried a staff of office, a reminder of his right to inflict physical discipline. However, Staff may also derive from the Old English pre 7th Century 'staef', used in the sense of a nickname for a person with long thin legs, in the words of Chaucer 'Ful longe were his legges and ful lene, Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene'.Among the early recordings in London is the christening of Thomas Staff on October 13th 1692 at St. Andrew's, Holborn. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Staf, which was dated 1177, Pipe Rolls of Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, 'The Builder of Churches', 1154 - 1189. 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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