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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

The surname Clift is derived from the Old English word "clif," which means cliff, rock, or steep descent. It is thought to have been a name used for someone who lived near a sloping cliff or the bank of a river. As such, the surname Clift belongs to the class of topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees.


The surname Clift was first found in Shropshire and Cheshire. The latter county "in the hundred of Northwich, is Clive, from whence their ancestor Warin assumed his name in the time of Henry II. About the reign of Edward II the family removed to Huxley, also in Cheshire, Henry de Clive having married the co-heiress. " [1] The Shropshire branch claim descent from the village and civil parish so named. "James Clive with the heiress of Styche, of Styche, they settled in Shropshire at that place, which is in the parish of Moreton-Say, and has remained uninterruptedly in the Clive family." [1] Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB MP FRS (1725-1774), was born in the parish at Styche Hall and is buried in the church at Moreton Say.

The Welsh have an extremely large amount of spelling variations of their native surnames to their credit. The earliest explanation for the preponderance of spelling variations is that when Welsh surnames were in Welsh and accordingly were difficult to translate into English. It was therefore up to the priest or the scribe taking the official records to determine how the spoken name was to be made literal. As time progressed, the old Brythonic names of Wales were recorded in English, which was especially problematic since the English language had extreme difficulty recording the highly inflected sounds of Cymraeg. Spelling variations were, however, also carried out according to an individual's design: a branch loyalty within the family, a religious adherence, or even patriotic affiliations could be indicated by spelling variations of one's name. The spelling variations of the name Clift have included Cliffe, Cliff, Clive, Cleeves, Cleave, Cleaves and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clift research. Another 275 words (20 lines of text) covering the years 1725, 1774 and 1767 are included under the topic Early Clift History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Clift Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


During the latter half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the people of Wales journeyed to North America to find a new life. They made major contributions to the arts, industry and commerce of both Canada and the United States, and added a rich cultural heritage to their newly adopted societies. A look at the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Clift:

Clift Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Benjamin Clift, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682
  • Ben Clift, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1683

Clift Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • lames Clift, who arrived in Virginia in 1718
  • Wombwell Clift, who landed in Virginia in 1737

Clift Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Charles Clift, aged 21, landed in New York, NY in 1855
  • Agnes Clift, aged 29, who arrived in America, in 1895

Clift Settlers in United States in the 20th Century

  • Wm. T. Clift, aged 45, who arrived in America from London, in 1900
  • Robert Wallis Clift, aged 21, who arrived in America from Cornwall, England, in 1907
  • James Clift, aged 48, who arrived in America from Doncaster, England, in 1909
  • George H. Clift, aged 25, who arrived in America from Stoney Stanton, England, in 1911
  • Benjamin Bertie Clift, aged 15, who arrived in America from Mousehole, England, in 1912

Clift Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century

  • Liesa Clift, aged 34, who arrived in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1910
  • Thomas B. Clift, aged 41, who arrived in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1910
  • Cecil Clift, aged 20, who arrived in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1912
  • Elizabeth Clift, aged 35, who arrived in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1912
  • J. Augustus Clift, aged 53, who arrived in St. Johns, Newfoundland, in 1912

Clift Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Joseph Clift, English convict from Wiltshire, who was transported aboard the "Asia" on April 1st, 1822, settling in New South Wales, Austraila
  • William Clift, aged 20, a miner, arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Reliance"

Clift Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • John Clift, aged 26, a carpenter, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Howrah" in 1874


  • Mr. Horance Clift (d. 1915), American 3rd Class passenger from Chicago, Illinois, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking
  • Joseph Wales Clift (1837-1908), American politician, U.S. Representative from Georgia
  • David Horace Clift (1907-1972), American librarian and former chief executive of the American Library Association (ALA) from 1951 to 1972
  • Jack Clift (b. 1955), American composer and music producer
  • Wallace Bruce Clift Jr. (b. 1926), American author on the field of psychology of religion
  • Denison Clift (1885-1961), American screenwriter and film director
  • Eleanor Clift (b. 1940), American political reporter, television pundit and author
  • Harlond Benton "Darkie" Clift (1912-1992), American Major League Baseball third baseman who played from 1934 to 1945
  • Edward Montgomery "Monty" Clift (1920-1966), American four-time Academy Award nominated film and stage actor
  • Mr. Maurice W M Clift, British Electrical Artificer 3rd Class, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking



The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: In cruce glorior
Motto Translation: I glory in the cross.


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  1. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.

Other References

  1. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  2. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  3. Fairbairn,. Fairbain's book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 4th Edition 2 volumes in one. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1968. Print.
  4. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  5. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  6. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  8. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  10. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  11. ...

The Clift Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Clift Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 8 December 2015 at 16:51.

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