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Maori Names Take the Stage

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Māori names have it all: mythology, nature, word names, and so much more. Whether you’re seeking fashionable and familiar, such as Ari or Maia, or you want something a little more unexpected, like Atawhai or Kahukura, you may just discover your next big name crush in a Māori baby name.

Although well-loved in Aotearoa (New Zealand), Māori names are little known outside of their homeland. But there are hundreds of bold and brilliant baby names from New Zealand just waiting to shine.

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Top Māori Names

Each year, Aotearoa’s government publishes the Top 10 Māori names given to baby boys and girls over the past twelve months. Aotearoa is a small nation of just five million inhabitants, so the number of babies given each name may seem small to people from larger countries.

The names in the list below are all of Māori origin, as determined by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission of Aotearoa. Some Māori names, like Mia and Aria, may also be widely popular in other languages with alternative history.

Here are the Top 10 Māori baby names given to boys (tama) and girls (kōtiro) in 2020, together with the number of births registered.

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Top Māori Girl Names

1. Mia (162)

2. Aria (132)

3. Maia (85)

4. Amaia (59)

5. Kora (40)

6. Kaia (34)

7. Aroha (33)

8. Anahera (32)

9. Tiana (20)

10. Kaea (18)

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Top Māori Boy Names

1. Nikau (63)

2. Manaia (51)

3. Ari (49)

4. Mikaere (37)

5. Koa (31)

6. Ihaia (29)

7. Manaaki (29)

8. Te Ariki (27)

9. Taika (25)

10= Mateo (24)

10= Wiremu (24)

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Māori Nature Names

Beyond the Top 10, many parents prefer to opt for a more unusual and unexpected name. Nature-inspired Māori names always make a solid choice and are ready for some international appreciation. Here are our picks for the top nature-inspired Māori baby names.

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Māori Nature Names for Girls

Aihe – “dolphin” 

Aotea – “dawn” 

Aramoana – “pathway to the ocean” 

Atarangi – “morning sky”

Horowai – “waterfall” 

Huhana – “lily; lotus”

Inia – “water”

Kahukura – “rainbow”

Marama – “moon”

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Māori Nature Names for Boys

Kauri – a type of tree native to Aotearoa

Nikau – a type of tree found in Aotearoa

Hunu – “sunray”

Kamaka – “rock”

Rangi – “god of the sky”

Tawera – “morning star”

Tui – an endemic species of bird found in New Zealand

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Māori Names With Positive Meanings

Māori doesn’t just have beautiful nature names. Names with bright, optimistic meanings also present great options for expectant parents. Here are some of our personal favorites.

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Māori Girl Names and Meanings

Aroha – “love”

Ataahua – “beautiful girl”

Aio – “peace”

Arihi – “a noble woman”

Hoana – “God is gracious”

Katarine – “one who is pure”

Ngaire – “praised”

Whina – “helpful girl”

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Māori Boy Names and Meanings

Mikaera – “who is like God”

Akahata – “supreme”

Atawhai – “kind and caring”

Etera – “help; aid”

Ihaka – “he will laugh”

Matiu – “gift of God”

Ropata – “bright fame”

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Respecting Māori Culture

Before naming your child something on this list, it is crucial to consider the significance these names hold to those of Māori heritage. Although it is acceptable to use a Māori name if you are Pākehā (European), proceed with care and respect.

A Māori language expert, Tāwhirimātea Williams, says that the usage of Māori names can be a show of affection and respect to the Māori people. However, if a Pākehā wishes to use a Māori name, they must have a deep understanding of the history and the meaning behind those names.

A brilliant example of this is New Zealand’s very own prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who in 2018 gave birth to a baby girl and named her Neve Te Aroha. She chose the name Te Aroha knowing the importance of the name in Māori culture, despite being Pākehā herself. As Māori language expert Williams explained: “She has shown us that she not only has affection for the Pākehā world but ours as well, hence her giving her baby that name.”

About the Author

Eileithyia

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