- surname recorded from 1248; it means "a spearman." This was a common type of English surname (Shakelance (1275), Shakeshaft (1332)). Shake (v.) in the sense of "to brandish or flourish (a weapon)" is attested from late Old English
Heo scæken on heore honden speren swiðe stronge.
[Laymon, "Brut," c. 1205]
Compare also shake-buckler "a swaggerer, a bully;" shake-rag "ragged fellow, tatterdemalion." "Never a name in English nomenclature so simple or so certain in origin. It is exactly what it looks -- Shakespear" [Bardsley, "Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames," 1901]. Nevertheless, speculation flourishes. The name was variously written in contemporary records, also Shakespear, Shakespere, the last form being the one adopted by the New Shakespere Society of London and the first edition of the OED. Related: Shakespearian (1753); Shakesperean (1796); Shakesperian (1755).