Callawayasaurus (Callaway) is named in honor of the paleontologist, Jack M. Callaway, editor of Ancient Marine Reptiles who, as Carpenter put it, "in his brief career as a vertebrate paleontologist, did much to improve our understanding of marine reptiles". The familiar suffix, -saurus comes from the Greek sauros (σαυρος), meaning "lizard" or "reptile."
The first skull of Callawayasaurus to be found was 35 cm long, while the animal as a whole grew up to 8 m long. The nares of Callawayasaurus are elongated and positioned over the maxilla, which has 3-5 teeth. The neck contains 56 vertebrae which are relatively short compared to other elasmosaurids. Callawayasaurus fossils have no pectoral bars; in common with other plesiosaurs such as Terminonatator. They also lack postaxial accessory facets.
Another nearly complete skeleton was found to be slightly more robust than the holotype specimen. This subtle change may indicate sexual dimorphism.