CLEVELAND Surname Meaning and Origin

Boulby Cliffs, the highest cliffs on England's east coast exemplify the hilly terrain of Boulby, Redcar & Cleveland, England
VisitBritain/Britain on View / Getty Images

The Cleveland surname most commonly originated as a name for someone who came from the district of Cleveland in Yorkshire, England, a corruption of "cliff lane," which described the steep, hilly terrain of the region, from the Old English clif, meaning "bank, slope" and land, meaning "land."

According to the "Dictionary of American Family Names," the Cleveland surname may also have originated in some families as an Americanized spelling of the Norwegian surnames Kleiveland or Kleveland, habitational names from several farmsteads in Agder and Vestlandet, from the Old Norse kleif, meaning "rocky ascent" and land, meaning "land."

Surname Origin: English


Where in the World Is the CLEVELAND Surname Found?

While it originated in England, the Cleveland surname is now most prevalent in the United States, according to surname distribution data from Forebears. Within the British Isles, at the turn of the 20th century, Cleveland was most common in Suffolk, England, followed by Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Kent, Hampshire, Sussex, and Surrey.

WorldNames PublicProfiler also has the Cleveland surname as most commonly found in the United States, with the greatest numbers of people with this last name found in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alaska.

Famous People With the Last Name CLEVELAND

  • Grover Cleveland - the 22nd and 24th president of the United States
  • Moses Cleaveland - the progenitor of the famous Cleaveland whaling family of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts
  • Benjamin Cleveland - American Revolutionary War patriot, best known for his role in the American victory at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
  • Dick Cleveland - American swimmer, winner of three Pan American Games and a former world record-holder. 
  • Carol Cleveland - British actress and comedian, best known for her appearances on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Genealogy Resources for the Surname CLEVELAND

The Genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland Families
This three-volume set published by Edmund Janes Cleveland in 1899 attempts "to track in both the male and female lines, the posterity of Moses Cleveland of Ipswich, Suffolk County, England and Woburn, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. See also Vol. II and Vol. III. Free on Internet Archive.

The Cleveland DNA Project
The Cleveland DNA Project is open to all families with this surname, of all spelling variations, and from all locations. The group is working to correlate test results and paternal pedigrees so that each family can identify their genetic heritage and related Cleveland families.

Common English Surnames: Meanings and Origins
Learn about the four types of English surnames, plus explore the meaning and origin of the 100 most common English last names.

Cleveland Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Cleveland family crest or coat of arms for the Cleveland surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male-line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.

FamilySearch - CLEVELAND Genealogy
Explore over 500,000 historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Cleveland surname and its variations on the free FamilySearch website, hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

CLEVELAND Surname & Family Mailing Lists
RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for researchers of the Cleveland surname. - CLEVELAND Genealogy & Family History
Explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Cleveland.

CLEVELAND Genealogy Forum
Search the archives for posts about Cleveland ancestors, or post your own Cleveland query.

The Cleveland Genealogy and Family Tree Page
Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the popular last name Cleveland from the website of Genealogy Today.

References: Surname Meanings & Origins

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.


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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "CLEVELAND Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). CLEVELAND Surname Meaning and Origin. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "CLEVELAND Surname Meaning and Origin." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).