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Shawl vs. Shaw: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Janet White || Updated on May 20, 2024
A shawl is a large piece of fabric worn around the shoulders or head for warmth or style, while a shaw is a Scottish term for a wooded area or a copse.

Key Differences

A shawl is a versatile accessory, typically a large piece of fabric used for warmth or style. It can be draped around the shoulders, head, or body and is made from various materials like wool, silk, or cotton. Shaw, in contrast, is a term used in Scotland and Northern England to refer to a small wooded area or thicket. It is often used to describe natural landscapes rather than clothing items.
Shawls have been worn for centuries across different cultures, often embellished with intricate designs and patterns. They serve both functional and decorative purposes, providing warmth and adding elegance to an outfit. The term shaw, however, has no connection to clothing. Instead, it is rooted in geographical terminology, describing a specific type of natural feature found in rural areas.
Shawls can be worn in various styles, from casual to formal settings, and are popular in fashion worldwide. They are especially common in colder climates where additional layers are necessary. On the other hand, a shaw is more likely to be referenced in the context of hiking, nature walks, or geographical studies rather than in discussions about fashion or clothing.

Comparison Chart


A large piece of fabric worn for warmth/style
A small wooded area or thicket

Usage Context

Fashion, warmth, and cultural attire
Geographical, natural landscapes


Wool, silk, cotton, etc.

Cultural Significance

High in many cultures
Primarily regional (Scotland, N. England)

Related to Clothing


Shawl and Shaw Definitions


A large piece of fabric worn around the shoulders for warmth.
She wrapped the shawl tightly around her shoulders to keep warm.


A natural feature characterized by dense vegetation.
The path led them into a dense shaw filled with bird songs.


An accessory used to add style to an outfit.
The silk shawl complemented her evening gown beautifully.


A type of rural landscape feature.
Farmers often find wild berries growing in the shaw.


A traditional garment in various cultures.
The bride wore an intricately embroidered shawl on her wedding day.


A regional term for a patch of woods.
The children loved exploring the shaw near their home.


A usually square, rectangular, or triangular piece of cloth worn as a covering for the head, neck, or shoulders.


A small wooded area or thicket.
They walked through the shaw on their way to the village.


A warm covering used in colder climates.
He bought a wool shawl to use during the chilly evenings.


A term used in Scotland for a copse.
The deer were hiding in the shaw by the stream.


To cover with or as if with such a piece of cloth.


A thicket; a small wood or grove.


A square or rectangular piece of cloth worn as a covering for the head, neck, and shoulders, typically by women.
She wears her shawl when it's cold outside.


(Scotland) The leaves and tops of vegetables, especially potatoes and turnips.


A fold of wrinkled flesh under the lips and neck of a bloodhound, used in scenting.


A thicket; a small wood or grove.
Gaillard he was as goldfinch in the shaw.
The green shaws, the merry green woods.


(transitive) To wrap in a shawl.


The leaves and tops of vegetables, as of potatoes, turnips, etc.


A square or oblong cloth of wool, cotton, silk, or other textile or netted fabric, used, especially by women, as a loose covering for the neck and shoulders.


United States clarinetist and leader of a swing band (born in 1910)


To wrap in a shawl.


United States humorist who wrote about rural life (1818-1885)


Cloak consisting of an oblong piece of cloth used to cover the head and shoulders


United States physician and suffragist (1847-1919)


A versatile piece of clothing that can be draped in various ways.
She draped the shawl over her head to protect from the sun.


British playwright (born in Ireland); founder of the Fabian Society (1856-1950)


What materials are shawls made from?

Shawls can be made from wool, silk, cotton, and other fabrics.

Can a shawl be worn in different styles?

Yes, shawls can be draped in various ways to suit different fashion styles and needs.

What is a shawl?

A shawl is a large piece of fabric worn around the shoulders or head for warmth or style.

What is a shaw?

A shaw is a small wooded area or thicket, commonly found in Scotland and Northern England.

Is a shaw found in urban areas?

No, a shaw is typically found in rural or natural landscapes.

Is a shaw related to clothing?

No, a shaw refers to a geographical feature, not clothing.

Can shawls be worn year-round?

Yes, depending on the material, shawls can be worn in different seasons.

Do shawls provide warmth?

Yes, shawls are often worn for warmth, especially in colder climates.

Are shawls culturally significant?

Yes, shawls hold cultural significance in many societies around the world.

What types of trees are found in a shaw?

Shaws typically contain various types of trees and shrubs, depending on the region.

Where is the term shaw commonly used?

The term shaw is commonly used in Scotland and Northern England.

Can shawls be used for decoration?

Yes, shawls are often used to add decorative elements to an outfit.

Are shaws important for wildlife?

Yes, shaws can provide habitat for various wildlife species.

Do people still use the term shaw?

Yes, it is still used regionally to describe small wooded areas.

Is a shaw a type of forest?

A shaw is a small wooded area, not a large forest.

How do shawls differ from scarves?

Shawls are larger and can cover more of the body, while scarves are usually narrower and wrap around the neck.

Can shawls be part of formal attire?

Yes, shawls can add elegance to formal attire.

Is a shaw similar to a grove?

Yes, a shaw is similar to a grove but typically smaller and denser.

Are shawls handmade or machine-made?

Shawls can be both handmade and machine-made, depending on the craftsmanship and material.

Can shawls be part of traditional dress?

Yes, shawls are often an integral part of traditional dress in many cultures.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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