The name derives from the Lands of Fife in Scotland, and means 'A former inhabitant of that place'. A fife was an ancient wind instrument which maybe the origin of the name i.e. a windy place. In the modern idiom the name has four spelling variations Fyfe,Fife, Fyffe and Phyfe. The surname became Feif and Pfeiff in Sweden where several of the name became prominent. An interesting namebearer was Sir John Fife (1795 - 1871), army assistant surgeon at Woolwich, helped to found Newcastle School of Medicine, 1834. Mayor of Newcastle 1838 -1839 and 1843, Knighted (1840) for suppressing chartist outbreak of 1839. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ele de Fyfe. which was dated 1296, Country Fife. during the reign of King Robert de Bruce 1274 -1329. 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.