Māori naming customs

This article is about Māori naming customs in New Zealand.

Before the 1800s, Māori children would be called by one given name (simple or composite). These names were attributed to remarkable events around birth. Later in life a person might be given a new name relating to subsequent events.[1]


With the arrival of Europeans, surnames were introduced and soon after a Māori surname system was devised where a person would take their father's name as a surname, for example:

Ariki – Maunga Ariki – Waiora Maunga – Te Awa Waiora – Waipapa Te Awa

Māori would also have translations of their names, for example:

John Te Awa – Hone River – John River – Hone Waipapa Te Awa – John Waipapa Te Awa – Hone Waipapa – John Waipapa[2]


  1. ^ "Maori Naming Conventions". Whakapapa Club. Retrieved 13 July 2019. Pre 1800s: Prior to the arrival of the Pakeha, Maori did not use surnames. However, because of an oral society where whakapapa was paramount, it was the norm for people to know the relationships or everyone within the hapu and iwi. Names were given at birth, often due to an event or circumstances. Sometimes, later on in life, a person was given another name, again, usually due to events or circumstances. For example, Tamatea Ure Haea was also known as Tamatea Pokai Whenua and Tamatea Pokai Moana. Ngati, means descendants of, so Ngati Tuwharetoa are the descendants of Tuwharetoa. Be aware that sometimes when talking iwi and whakapapa to a whakapapa person, if you mention, in this example, Tuwharetoa, they will think you are talking about the person. If you are talking about the iwi, get into the habit of using the Ngati in front.
  2. ^ "Naming Conventions for Maori". WikiTree G2G.

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