Chinese:: Mandarin form of the surname 劉 referring to a ‘type of axe used as a weapon’ or meaning ‘kill’ in ancient Chinese: (i) from Liu (劉) the name of an ancient state (located in Tang County in Hebei province). After this state was annexed during the reign of King Xuan of Zhou (reigned 827–782 BC) some people from it adopted 劉 as their surname. Liu Bang (劉邦) (256–195 BC) the founder of the Western Han dynasty (202 BC - 25 AD) is said to have been a descendant of one of these people. (ii) from the names of two other Western Han nobles Lou Jing and Xiang Bochan who were given the surname Liu (劉) by Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of Han 256–195 BC). In addition one of Liu Bang's daughters was said to be sent to marry Modu Chanyu (died 174 BC) the then chief of the Huns after the campaign at Baideng in 200 BC and some of their descendants later inherited Liu (劉) as their surname. (iii) from the placename Liu (劉) the name of a fief (located in Yanshi in present-day Henan province) granted to the son of Wang Ji a noble who lived during the reign of King Cheng of Zhou (reigned 1042–1021 BC). Mandarin form of the surname 柳 meaning ‘willow’ in Chinese: (i) from the first element of the placename Liu Xia (柳下) the name of a fief (located in Shandong province) in the state of Lu granted to Zhan Qin also known as Liu Xia Hui (柳下惠) (720–621 BC) a revered judicial official in the state of Lu. (ii) from the placename Liu (柳) the name of a fief (located in Xihua in Henan province) granted to Xiong Xin (died 205 BC) a grandson of King Huai of Chu (ruler of the state of Chu died 296 BC). Mandarin form of the surname 留 meaning ‘stay’ in Chinese: (i) from placename Liu (留) the name of an ancient fief (possibly located in present-day Henan province) which was said to be granted to one of the sons of the legendary Emperor Yao (c. 24th century BC). (ii) from another placename Liu (留) the name of a fief (located in present-day Jiangsu province) granted to an official in the state of Song during the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC). (iii) adopted in place of the original surname Liu (劉) by the descendants of Liu Dan (433–459 AD) who was murdered due to rebellion against his brother Emperor Xiaowu of Song (died 464 AD). His descendants were then ordered to change their surname to Liu (留). Cantonese form of the surname 廖 see Liao .
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names 2nd edition, 2022