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A silicon-based micromachined, floating-element sensor for low-magnitude wall shear-stress measurement has been developed. Sensors over a range of element sizes and sensitivities have been fabricated by thin-wafer bonding and deep-reactive ion-etching techniques. Detailed design, fabrication, and testing issues are described in this paper. Detection of the floating-element motion is accomplished using either direct or differential capacitance measurement. The design objective is to measure the shear-stress distribution at levels of O(0.10 Pa) with a spatial resolution of approximately O(100 μm). It is assumed that the flow direction is known, permitting one to align the sensor appropriately so that a single component shear measurement is a good estimate of the prevalent shear. Using a differential capacitance detection scheme these goals have been achieved. We tested the sensor at shear levels ranging from 0 to 0.20 Pa and found that the lowest detectable shear-stress level that the sensor can measure is 0.04 Pa with an 8% uncertainty on a 200 μm×500 μm floating element plate.