The following glossary attempts to give the meanings of various Maori words and word components, for the purpose of assisting to give meaning to place names within the Auckland region, which is the area of activity for Civic Trust Auckland.
It is important to note that most Maori words have several different meanings. This makes it quite difficult to ascertain the likely meaning of Maori place names. For example, in Auckland the place name Tamaki could be taken literally for its meaning battle, but it could also refer to a proper name. Another example is the Maori word component tau, normally taken to mean the number two.
The word component rua has several meanings and these can differ depending on whether it comes at the beginning or end of a word. From the Reed dictionary of New Zealand place names it can be seen that the term rua in the word Ruahine could possibly be translated to mean cave, while the same component has the normal meaning of two in the name Tararua, both examples from the southern North Island. Please read the dictionary for its interpretations of these two names, particularly the rather humorous explanation given to the meaning of Tararua.
It is unfortunate that the true meanings of many Maori place names in the Auckland region have been lost. Any English translation must be undertaken with care, taking into account the likely context in which the name may have been given in the first instance. This requires a close study of Maori history, language and culture.
The following glossary taken from a number of sources is very much a preliminary attempt and Civic Trust Auckland would be grateful to receive corrections and additional data, from knowledgeable sources.
To heap up
Roots. Akaaka fibrous roots.
Whirlpool, swirling current. See also ripo
Run aground, Crouch
Dance, usually a formalised war dance
A hollow or pool
Wind, there are many other meanings
Swallow, run, crumbling, landslip
Native tree (five finger)
Native Bird (now extinct)
High country, infertile
Turn around, revolve, circle
Proper name. Nephew of Kahu-mata-moemoe
Shortened version of Kahu-mata-moemoe, son of Tama-te-Kapua