Explore the Family Name Shaw

The meaning of Shaw

1. English (Yorkshire and Lancashire): from Middle English s(c)hawe, s(c)haghe ‘small wood, grove, thicket’ (Old English sceaga). The surname may be topographic, for someone who lived in or by a small wood, or habitational, for someone from any of the many places so named. Shaw and Shawe are most frequent in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where Shaw in Oldham (Lancashire) may be a principal source of the surname. The English and Lowland Scottish surname was also established in Ireland in the 17th century. 2. Scottish: shortened form of various surnames from the Gaelic personal name Sitheach, derived from sithech ‘wolf’. 3. Irish (Down and Antrim): adopted for Ó Síthigh ‘descendant of Sítheach’, a personal name based on sítheach ‘peaceful’. Compare Sheehy. 4. Americanized form of some similar (like-sounding) Jewish surname. 5. Chinese: variant Romanization of the surname 邵, see Shao 1. History: Early American merchants and revolutionary patriots were Nathaniel Shaw (born 1735 in New London, CT) and Samuel Shaw (born 1754 in Boston).

Dictionary of American Family Names, 2nd edition, © Oxford University Press, 2022.

How common is the last name Shaw in the United States?

Based on the Decennial U.S. Census, the popularity of the surname Shaw has moderately fluctuated between 2000 and 2010. In 2000, Shaw was the 150th most common surname in the U.S., but by 2010 it had slipped to 164th place, marking a decrease of about 9.33%. Despite this drop in rank, the actual number of people with the Shaw surname increased from 155,172 in 2000 to 160,400 in 2010, reflecting a growth rate of about 3.37%.

Proportion per 100k57.5254.38-5.46%

Race and Ethnicity of people with the last name Shaw

The examination of ethnic identity associated with the surname Shaw, based on data from the Decennial U.S. Census, reveals some shifts between 2000 and 2010. The largest proportion of individuals with the surname identify as White, although there was a slight decline from 74.67% in 2000 to 72.07% in 2010. A notable increase was seen in the Hispanic population with the Shaw surname, growing from 1.48% to 2.36%, which indicates an impressive surge of approximately 59.46%. Similarly, those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander and those claiming two or more races also saw upticks, moving from 1.24% to 1.48% and 1.65% to 2.15% respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of individuals identifying as Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native both experienced minor increases.

Two or More Races1.65%2.15%30.3%
Asian/Pacific Islander1.24%1.48%19.35%
American Indian and Alaskan Native0.73%0.75%2.74%

Shaw ancestry composition

23andMe computes an ancestry breakdown for each customer. People may have ancestry from just one population or they may have ancestry from several populations. The most commonly-observed ancestry found in people with the surname Shaw is British & Irish, which comprises 52.2% of all ancestry found in people with the surname. The next two most common ancestries are French & German (21.0%) and Ashkenazi Jewish (3.8%). Additional ancestries include Eastern European, Scandinavian, Italian, Nigerian, and Spanish & Portuguese.

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British & Irish52.2%
French & German21.0%
Ashkenazi Jewish3.8%

Possible origins of the surname Shaw

Your DNA provides clues about where your recent ancestors may have lived. Having many distant relatives in the same location suggests that you may all share common ancestry there. Locations with many distant relatives can also be places where people have migrated recently, such as large cities. If a large number of individuals who share your surname have distant relatives in a specific area, it could indicate a connection between your surname and that location, stemming from either recent ancestral ties or migration.

Based on 23andMe data, people with last name Shaw have recent ancestry locations in United Kingdom and Ireland.

RECENT ANCESTRY LocationPercentage
Greater London, United Kingdom82.60%
Greater Manchester, United Kingdom82.50%
Glasgow City, United Kingdom82.30%
Merseyside, United Kingdom82.30%
West Midlands, United Kingdom82.10%

What Shaw haplogroups can tell you

Haplogroups are genetic population groups that share a common ancestor on either your paternal or maternal line. These paternal and maternal haplogroups shed light on your genetic ancestry and help tell the story of your family.

The top paternal haplogroup of people with the surname Shaw is R-CTS241, which is predominantly found among people with European ancestry. Haplogroup R-CTS241 is descended from haplogroup R-M343. Other common haplogroups include R-L21 and I-Z58, which are predominantly found among people with European and European ancestry. Other surnames with similar common haplogroups are: Phillips, Jones, Price, Evans, Morgan, Matthews, Morris, Thompson, Thomas, Richards.

The most common maternal haplogroups of people with Shaw surname are: T2b, H1, H. These most commonly trace back to individuals of European ancestry.

shawPaternal Haplogroup Origins R-M343

Your maternal lineage may be linked to Marie Antoinette

Because it is so dominant in the general European population, haplogroup H also appears quite frequently in the continent's royal houses. Marie Antoinette, an Austrian Hapsburg who married into the French royal family, inherited the haplogroup from her maternal ancestors. So did Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose recorded genealogy traces his female line to Bavaria. Scientists also discovered that famed 16th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus traced his maternal lineages to haplogroup H.

Maternal Haplo Image

What do people with the surname Shaw have in common?

Spoiler alert: it's complicated. People with the same last name are usually no more genetically similar than a randomly sampled group of people from the same population. That said, people with the same surname are more likely to have similar ancestries than randomly sampled individuals. The reason is the tendency of people with similar cultural or geographical backgrounds to preferentially mate with one another. That's why people who share a surname may be more likely to share traits and tendencies in common than people within the general population. Check out the percentages below to see the prevalences of tastes, habits, and traits of people with your surname compared with prevalences among 23andMe users.



Chocolate Ice Cream

Prefers chocolate flavored ice cream over other flavors.

"Shaw" Surname 40.8%

23andMe Users 41.3%




When sounds made by others, like the sound of chewing or yawning, provoke strong emotional reactions in an individual.

"Shaw" Surname 30.0%

23andMe Users 27.9%



Sugary Drink

Drinks one or more sugary drinks per day.

"Shaw" Surname 23.6%

23andMe Users 21.1%




A severe headache characterized by intense pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

"Shaw" Surname 17.7%

23andMe Users 16.4%

Are health conditions linked to the last name Shaw?

The short answer is that, if there is an association between surname and health, it's usually more about your ancestry than your name. Individuals with a given surname are no more genetically similar than the general population but often have similar ancestries. The populations of people associated with those shared ancestries often have sets of genetic variations, also known as alleles, in common. Some of those alleles are associated with a greater likelihood of developing certain diseases.

Disease variant frequency by ancestry

Disease allele frequencies in populations associated with the surname Shaw are shown below. Important Note: not everyone with a disease allele will develop these health condition

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Y402H variant

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina (the macula), impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. The 23andMe Health + Ancestry DNA test includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition: the Y402H variant in the CFH gene and the A69S variant in the ARMS2 gene. Learn more about Age-Related Macular Degeneration

British & Irish 62.1%

23andMe Users 57.2%