This unusual and long-established surname is of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse origin, and has two possible sources, which are both personal names. The first is from the Middle English female given name "Ayleve" or "Aylgive", from the Olde English pre 7th Century "Aethelgifu", itself composed of the elements "aethel", noble, and "gifu", gift; and was the name of a daughter of King Alfred the Great, who became abbess of Shaftesbury. The second possible derivation is from an Old Norse byname, "Eilifr", composed of the elements "ei", always, and "lifr", life, thus either, "noble gift", or "eternal life". In the modern idiom the surname can be found as Ayliffe, Ayliff, Ellif and Elliff. The surname was first recorded in the late 12th Century, and one Aenaed Fitz-Aluf (an early form of this name) was the Sheriff of London in 1198. John Ayliffe (1676 - 1732), a Jurist who is listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography", published controversial writings about Oxford University, then went on to publish treatise on Canon and Civil Law. Recordings from London Church Registers include the marriage of William Ayliffe and Frances Weston at St. George's, Hanover Square, in 1783. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Segarus Aileves, which was dated 1188, in the "Calendar of Abbot Samson of Bury St. Edmunds", Suffolk, during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "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.