Originally a medieval given name, Oliff(e), derived via French from the Late Latin name Oliva, which was borne by two obscure early saints. It in turn is derived from the Latin name for the olive tree, and was no doubt adopted at first because of the associations of the olive tree with peaceful productivity and fruitfulness; the olive branch has been a symbol of peace since biblical times. Like many names denoting plants and flowers, it was particularly popular in the early decades of the 20th century. See also Olivia.
English and Scottish: occupational name for a tailor, from Old French tailleur (Late Latin taliator, from taliare ‘to cut’). The surname is extremely common in Britain and Ireland, and its numbers have been swelled by its adoption as an Americanized form of the numerous equivalent European names, most of which are also very common among Ashkenazic Jews, for example Schneider, Szabó, and Portnov.