The type species, Emausaurus ernsti, was formalized by Harmut Haubold in 1990. The generic name is composed of an acronym of Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität or EMAU) and Greek sauros/σαυρος (lizard). The specific name is derived from the name of geologist Werner Ernst, who found the fossil, holotype SGWG 85, in the summer of 1963 at a loampit near Grimmen, in strata dating from the Toarcian.
The body length of the holotype of Emausaurus has been estimated at around two metres. This represented a juvenile individual though; adult length has been estimated at four metres. It was, despite its small size, probably quadrupedal and ate low vegetation.