Old English clif "steep and rugged face of a rocky mass, promontory, steep slope," from Proto-Germanic *kliban (source also of Old Saxon clif, Old Norse klif, Middle Dutch klippe, Dutch klip, Old High German klep, German Klippe "cliff, promontory, steep rock").
Clift has been a variant spelling since 15c. and was common in early Modern English. It represents an influence by or merger with clift, a variant of cleft (n.). Cliff-dweller first attested 1879, American English, in reference to aboriginal tribes of the U.S. Southwest who built dwellings in natural recesses in cliffs.
updated on December 30, 2017
Dictionary entries near cliff