Recorded in a number of spellings including Wife, Whife, Whiff, and the diminutives Whiffen, Whifen, Whyffen, and Whiffin, this is a very unusual medieval English surname. Deriving from the ancient pre 7th century word "wif" meaning woman, with the base form of "wife", meaning a married woman, it is far from certain how the word became a surname. The apparently male matching surname is Husband, however the original use this word was as a farmer, one who "husbanded" the land. It would therefore seem that if the same logic applies, "wif" originally described a woman who performed the duties of keeping the house, the same description being applied to the later "wife". An alternative suggestion is that the original surname may have been a nickname for a widower, one who had to take over the role of the wife, as the diminutives forms translate as "Little wife" or more logically "son of Wife." The early church registers indicate that the name was prominent in the county of Kent, although why this should be so, is again unclear. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving church registers include: John Whiff who maried Izabell Leedam at Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, on January 21st 1558, Joan, the daughter of Richard Whiffen, who was christened at Knockholt, Kent, on September 12th 1574, Richard Whyffen christened at Ash by Wrotham, also Kent, on April 9th 1581, and the smartly named Packington Wife who married Elizabeth Parslowe at St Dunstans in the East, Stepney, on September 21st 1600. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.


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  • whiff´er — whiff «hwihf», noun, verb. –n. 1. a slight gust; puff; breath: »A whiff of fresh air cleared his head. Not a whiff of life left in either of the bodies (Thomas Hardy). 2. a blow. 3. a slight smell; puff of air having an odor: »a whiff of garlic.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • whiff — [wıf] n [Date: 1500 1600; Origin: From the sound of a light movement of air carrying a smell] 1.) a very slight smell of something whiff of ▪ a whiff of tobacco get/catch a whiff of sth ▪ As she walked past, I caught a whiff of her perfume. 2.) a …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Whiff — Whiff, n. [OE. weffe vapor, whiff, probably of imitative origin; cf. Dan. vift a puff, gust, W. chwiff a whiff, puff.] [1913 Webster] 1. A sudden expulsion of air from the mouth; a quick puff or slight gust, as of air or smoke. [1913 Webster] But …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Whiff — Whiff, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Whiffed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Whiffing}.] [1913 Webster] 1. To throw out in whiffs; to consume in whiffs; to puff. [1913 Webster] 2. To carry or convey by a whiff, or as by a whiff; to puff or blow away. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • whiff — [ wıf, hwıf ] noun singular 1. ) a slight smell of something: Opening the door, she caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. 2. ) MAINLY LITERARY a slight amount or sign of something: a whiff of danger …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Whiff — Whiff, v. i. To emit whiffs, as of smoke; to puff. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • whiff — [hwif, wif] n. [echoic] 1. a light puff or gust of air or wind; breath 2. a slight wave or gust of odor; faint momentary smell [a whiff of garlic] 3. an inhaling or exhaling, as of tobacco smoke ☆ 4. Informal a complete miss when attempting to… …   English World dictionary

  • whiff — 13c., weffe foul scent or odor, of imitative origin. Modern form became popular late 16c. with tobacco smoking, probably influenced by whiffle blow in gusts or puffs (1560s). The verb in the baseball slang sense to swing at a ball and miss first… …   Etymology dictionary

  • whiff — [n] smell of an odor aroma, blast, breath, dash, draught, flatus, fume, gust, hint, inhalation, odor, puff, scent, shade, smack, sniff, snuff, soupçon, trace, trifle, waft; concepts 599,601,602 …   New thesaurus

  • whiff — ► NOUN 1) a smell that is smelt only briefly or faintly. 2) Brit. informal an unpleasant smell. 3) a trace or hint of something bad or exciting. 4) a puff or breath of air or smoke. ► VERB 1) get a brief or faint smell of. 2) …   English terms dictionary

  • whiff — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ faint, slight ▪ strong ▪ unmistakable (often figurative) ▪ The unmistakable whiff of electoral blackmail could be detected. ▪ …   Collocations dictionary