This interesting and unusual name is a curtailed form of the Scots Gaelic Maccaw, itself a semi Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic prefix "Mac" means "son of", plus the personal name Adhamh i.e. Adam, from the Hebrew meaning "red earth". It first appears as a personal name in Scotland circa 1189, when Adam, sub-prior of Melrose, became abbot of Cuspar - Duncan Adam who flourished circa 1316, had four sons, and it is believed that all Scottish bearers of the name (with it's numerous variants) descend from them. In 1506, one, Gillenow M'Kaw had a grant of the lands of North Garrochach, and an Alexander Caw, writer in Edinburgh, appears on record in 1679. Christian Caw, noted in "The Guildry of Edinburgh", had a pension paid to him in 1741, and Sir James Lewis Caw, (born 1864), was Director of the National Galeries of Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donald McCawe, tenant of Drumboy, which was dated 1481, in the "The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland", during the reign of King James 111 of Scotland, 1460 - 1488. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. 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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