Shah Last Name Popularity, Meaning and Origin

In this article we'll look at the origin and meaning of the surname Shah and how popular it is in the United States. We'll also look at the race and ethnic origin of people in the United States who are named Shah.

Shah, like all of the names we have data for, is identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a surname which has more than 100 occurrences in the United States in the Decennial Census survey. The most recent statistics we have for the Shah surname is from the 2010 census data.

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What is the Origin and Meaning of the Last Name Shah?

The surname Shah derives from the Persian word for king, making it a very regal name. The word Shah is often associated with the ruling classes of numerous Middle Eastern countries. As an example, until the desolation of the monarchy in 2008, the royal family of Nepal used the surname Shah.

Several alternate origins for the name exist and may come from the Gujarati word Sah (merchant), Sanskrit word Sadhu (honest, good) or Prakrit word Sahu. These more humble origins may have evolved to match the Persian spelling of Shah as a sign of status.

The first reported instance of the use of Shah as a family name was in 1592 when the Mugal Emperor Shihāb al-Dīn Muḥammad Khurram started using the name Jahan Shah. This new name combined a version of his father Jahangir’s name and the regal title of Shah.

Nadir Shah (1688-1747) is a notable bearer of this surname. Born Nadr Qoli Beg, Nadir took the title of Shah in 1736 when he deposed Abbas III from the Iranian throne. Nadir’s leadership skills were evident throughout his life despite his humble beginnings. In 1726 he took charge of a group of bandits and had over 5000 followers. He used this small army almost as a gang of mercenaries.

Naseeruddin Shah, born in Bara Banki, India in 1950, holds the surname of Shah rather than the title. An actor by profession he trained at India’s National School of drama. Naseeruddin rose to fame during the 1970s and is most identified with the New Indian cinema style.

Where Does Shah Rank in the Most Common U.S. Names?

According to the data, Shah is ranked #573 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

The Shah surname appeared 58,287 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 19.76 would have the surname Shah.

We can also compare 2010 data for Shah to data from the previous census in 2000. The table below contains all of the statistics for both years in a side-by-side comparison.

2010 2000 Change (%)
Rank 573 831 -36.75%
Count 58,287 37,833 42.56%
Proportion per 100k 19.76 14.02 33.98%

Race and Ethnic Origin of People with the Last Name Shah

We also have some data on the ancestry of people with the surname Shah.

The below race categories are the modified race categories used in the Census Bureau's population estimates program. All people were categorized into six mutually exclusive racial and Hispanic origin groups: "White only", "Black only", "American Indian and Alaskan Native only", "Asian and Pacific Islander only", "Two or More Races", and "Hispanic".

For the most recent 2010 census data, the race/ethnic origin breakdown for Shah was:

  • 3.59%, or 2,093 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic White Only".
  • 0.94%, or 548 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Black Only".
  • 91.74%, or 53,472 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander Only".
  • 0.34%, or 198 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaskan Native".
  • 2.70%, or 1,574 total occurrences, were "Non-Hispanic of Two or More Races".
  • 0.70%, or 408 total occurrences, were "Hispanic Origin".

Note: Any fields showing (S) means the data was suppressed for privacy so that the data does not in any way identify any specific individuals.

Since we have data from the previous census in 2000, we can also compare the values to see how the popularity of Shah has changed in the 10 years between the two census surveys.

2010 2000 Change (%)
White 3.59% 4.05% -12.04%
Black 0.94% 1.14% -19.23%
Asian and Pacific Islander 91.74% 87.80% 4.39%
American Indian and Alaskan Native 0.34% 0.24% 34.48%
Two or More Races 2.70% 5.88% -74.13%
Hispanic 0.70% 0.89% -23.90%

Data Source(s)

All of the data on this page is sourced from the Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.

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