The English habitational surname of Stow or Stowe is one of the very earliest of all surnames anywhere in the world. It derives from the pre 7th Century word "stow" meaning a meeting place, but more specifically a building attached to a hermitage, monastery or church. As Stoua and now Stow cum Quy in the county of Cambride, the place name is recorded in the famous Domesday Book of England in 1086, and is probably the place of origin of Winobus de Stoue as shown below. Other places called Stow or Stowe are found in the counties of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Staffordshire. Interesting namebearers include John Stow of London (1525 - 1605), a freeman of the Merchant Taylors Company, chronicler and antiquary, whilst William Henry Stowe (1825 - 1855) joined the staff of 'The Times' in 1852 and was their correspondent in the Crimean War. Unfortunately he was also a civilian casualty, dying of trench fever at Balaclava. The coat of arms associated with the name has the blazon of a green shield charged with a cross ragulee between four leopards faces, all gold. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Winobus de Stoue. This was dated 975 a.d. in the charters known as the Book of Ely, Cambridgeshire, during the reign of King Edward the Martyr, 975 - 978. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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"English: habitational name from any of the numerous places, for example in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Shropshire, and Suffolk, so called from Old English stow, a word akin to stoc (see Stoke), with the specialized meaning ‘meeting place’, frequently referring to a holy place or church. Places in Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, and Staffordshire having this origin use the spelling Stowe, but the spelling difference cannot be relied on as an indication of locality of origin. The final -e in part represents a trace of the Old English dative inflection."
SOURCE: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4