List of New Zealand place names and their meanings

List of New Zealand place names and their meanings

Place names in New Zealand derive largely from British and Māori origins. An overview of naming practices can be found at New Zealand place names.

  • Akaroa – Kāi Tahu Māori for “Long Harbour”, equivalent to Whangaroa.
  • Albert Town – named after Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  • Alexandra, New Zealand – named after Alexandra of Denmark.
  • Aoraki/Mount Cook – this Kāi Tahu Māori name is often glossed as “Cloud Piercer”, but literally it consists of ao “cloud” and raki “sky”. The English component is in honour of Captain James Cook.
  • Aotearoa – the common Māori name for New Zealand since the early 20th century; previously an alternate Māori name for the North Island. Usually glossed as Land of the Long White Cloud. From ao: cloud, tea: white, roa: long.
  • Aramoana – Māori for “pathway to (or beside) the sea”.
  • Auckland – in honour of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, a patron of William Hobson.
  • Balclutha from Scottish Gaelic “Baile Chluaidh” town on the Clyde.
  • Balfour – named after either a Waimea Company employee or a local surveyor.
  • Barrett Reef – named after Richard Barrett, a 19th-century whaler and trader.
  • Birdling’s Flat – named for the first Pākehā family to farm in the area, the Birdling family.
  • Blackball – named after the Black Ball Shipping Line, which leased land in the area for coal mining.
  • Brighton – named after Brighton, England.
  • Burkes Pass – named after Michael John Burke, who discovered the pass in 1855.
  • Burnham – named after Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire.
  • Canterbury – after the city and archdiocese of Canterbury in England.
  • Cape Farewell – named due to being the last part of New Zealand seen by Captain James Cook and his crew in 1770 before beginning their homeward voyage.
  • Cape Kidnappers – named after an attempt by local Māori to abduct one of the crew of Capt. James Cook’s ship Endeavour in 1769.
  • Carterton – named after Charles Rooking Carter, settler advocate and provincial politician.
  • Christchurch – after Christ Church, one of the colleges of the University of Oxford in England.
  • Clive – named after Robert Clive.
  • Clutha River from “Cluaidh”, the Scottish Gaelic for the Clyde.
  • Coalgate – named as the “gateway” to coalfields in inland Canterbury.
  • Collingwood – after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood.
  • Cook Strait – in honour of Captain James Cook.
  • Coonoor – named after Coonoor, India.
  • Cromwell – origin unknown, possibly after Oliver Cromwell.
  • Crooked River – named for its erratic, meandering path across plains near Lake Brunner.
  • Dannevirke – named after the Danevirke, a defensive formation constructed across the neck of the Jutland peninsula. in the Viking Age. Its name means “Danes’ works” in the Danish language.
  • Dargaville – named after timber merchant and politician Joseph McMullen Dargaville (1837–1896).
  • Douglas – named after a member of the Crown’s surveying party.
  • Dunedin – from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, “Dùn Èideann”.
  • Eyreton and West Eyreton – for Edward John Eyre, who acted as lieutenant governor of the South Island when it was known as New Munster.
  • Fairlie – named after Fairlie, North Ayrshire, Scotland.
  • Foveaux Strait – named after Joseph Foveaux, who was Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales when the strait was discovered in 1804.
  • Gladstone – named after British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.
  • Glenorchy – likely after Glen Orchy, Scotland.
  • Gore – for an early Governor of New Zealand, Sir Thomas Gore Browne.
  • Grey River and Greytown – named after politician George Edward Grey.
  • Greymouth – named for its location at the mouth of the Grey River.
  • Haast – named after Julius von Haast, a German geologist knighted for his services to New Zealand geology.
  • Hamilton – renamed after Captain John Charles Fane Hamilton, commander of HMS Esk, who was killed in the battle of Gate Pa, Tauranga.
  • Hampden – named after English politician John Hampden.
  • Hastings – named after Englishman Warren Hastings the first Governor-General of Bengal.
  • Hauraki Gulf – Māori for north wind.
  • Hawke’s Bay – in honour of Edward Hawke, 1st Baron Hawke of Towton.
  • Inchbonnie – is a hybrid of Lowland Scots, bonnie meaning “pretty” and Scottish Gaelic innis meaning island, often anglicised as “Inch”.
  • Invercargill – from Scottish Gaelic inbhir anglicised “Inver” meaning a confluence and William Cargill founder of Otago.
  • Kerikeri – not definitively known. See Kerikeri#Origins and naming for several possibilities.
  • King Country – district where the Māori King Movement led by King Tawhiao flourished in the 1860s.
  • Kirwee – named after Karwi, India by retired British Army colonel De Renzie Brett.
  • Kohimarama – properly ‘Kohimaramara’ – to gather up (kohi) the scraps or chips (maramara).[citation needed]
  • Lake Hayes – originally Hays Lake and named for D. Hay, who came to the area looking for sheep country in 1859.
  • Lake Te Anau – named after Te Ana-au Caves, “the cave of swirling water”.
  • Lake Waihola – from the southern Māori form of the words wai hora, meaning “spread-out waters”.
  • Levin – from a director of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, which created the town to service its railway.
  • London Burb – named after early settlers in Nelson region, famous for war veteran’s Geoff London memorial.
  • Macetown – named after its founders, the brothers Charles, Harry, and John Mace.
  • Mackenzie Basin (or Mackenzie Country) – named by and after James Mackenzie, a Scottish-born shepherd and sheep thief who herded his stolen flocks to the largely unpopulated basin.
  • Manukau – may mean “wading birds”, although it has been suggested that the harbour was originally named Mānuka, after a native tree.
  • Martinborough – after the town’s founder, John Martin.
  • Masterton – after local pioneer Joseph Masters.
  • Maungati – Māori for “cabbage-tree mountain”.
  • Milford Sound – named after Milford Haven, Wales. The Māori name, Piopiotahi, means “first native thrush”.
  • Millers Flat – named after an early European settler of the area, Walter Miller.
  • Napier – after Sir Charles James Napier.
  • Naseby, New Zealand – named after Naseby, England.
  • Nelson – in honour of Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson.
  • New Plymouth – named after Plymouth in England.
  • Ophir – after gold was discovered in the area, it was named after where King Solomon obtained the gold to sheath the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Otago – Anglicised from the Māori name Ōtākou, a kāinga (village) east of present-day Otago Harbour, meaning “place of red ochre”.
  • Otematata – Māori for “place of good flint”.
  • Paerau – Māori for “hundred ridges”.
  • Papatoetoe – papa means a flat, and toetoe is a native grass (similar to pampas grass).
  • Pikirakatahi/Mount Earnslaw – named after Earnslaw village in the parish of Eccles, Berwickshire, Scotland.
  • Plimmerton – from John Plimmer, Wellington pioneer, director of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, which created the seaside resort to help boost its railway; central Wellington has Plimmer’s Steps.
  • Porirua – Possibly a variant of “Pari-rua” (“two tides”), a reference to the two arms of the Porirua Harbour.
  • Pukerua Bay – puke: hill, rua: two – location is on a saddle between two hills.
  • Rakiura – raki: sky, ura: red – thought to be a reference to the Aurora Australis and unusual sunsets at these latitudes. [1], [2]
  • Ranfurly – named after Uchter Knox, 5th Earl of Ranfurly, former Governor-General of New Zealand.
  • Raumati – Māori for summer.
  • Sinclair Wetlands – named after local farmer Horace Sinclair.
  • Tasman – district named from the bay name, in honour of Dutchman Abel Tasman, commander of first European ship to sight the country. Also name of Mount Tasman, Tasman Glacier and Tasman National Park.
  • Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu “the summit where Tamatea, who travelled about the land, played the flute to his beloved.” This hill in Hawke’s Bay is credited by The Guinness Book of World Records with having the longest place name in the world.
  • Tauranga – a sheltered anchorage for waka, (canoes).
  • Tauweru River – Māori for “hanging in clusters”; the town of Tauweru is named after the river.
  • Te Awamutu – Māori for “the river’s end”.
  • Te Raekaihau Point – Te Rae-kai-hau – The literal meaning of the name is ‘the headland that eats the wind’ (see Best, 8, Pt.5, p. 174).
  • Te Waipounamu (the South Island) – the greenstone water or ‘the water of greenstone’ where ‘wai’ can also refer to rivers or streams or other bodies of water. It has been surmised that the name evolved from Te Wahi Pounamu, meaning the greenstone place.
  • Te Whiti o Tū – Māori for “Tū’s crossing”.
  • Timaru – the Māori Language Commission renders this as Te Tihi-o-Maru, ‘the peak of Maru’. Others have suggested that it derives from te maru, “place of shelter”, or from , “cabbage tree”, and maru, “shady”.
  • Tiniroto – Māori for “many lakes”.
  • Waiheke Island – Waiheke means cascading or ebbing water.
  • Waikanae – Māori for “the waters of the grey mullet”.
  • Waikato, Waikato River – Māori for “flowing water”.
  • Wainuiomata – “wai”: water, river; “nui”: big; “o Mata”: of Mata. Mata’s big stream.
  • Waipori River – presumably from Māori wai, “water”, and pōuri, “dark”.
  • Whangarei – whanga: harbour, rei: cherished possession.
  • Whitianga – ‘crossing’ or ‘ford’, from ‘Te Whitianga-a-Kupe’, Kupe’s crossing place.
  • Wellington – in honour of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
  • Whitby – from the town of Whitby in Yorkshire England, home of James Cook.
  • Whitecliffs – named after terraced cliffs above the Selwyn River.

“Thomson’s Barnyard”

Many of the locations in the southern South Island of New Zealand, especially those in Central Otago and the Maniototo, were named by John Turnbull Thomson, who had surveyed the area in the late 1850s. Many of these placenames are of Northumbrian origin, as was Thomson himself.

There is a widespread belief that the naming of many places was through a disagreement with the New Zealand surveying authorities. It has long been suggested that Thomson originally intended to give either classical or traditional Maori names to many places, but these names were refused. In response, Thomson gave prosaic Northumbrian names to them, often simply in the form of a Northumbrian dialectic name for an animal[1] The Maniototo region around the town of Ranfurly is rife with such names as Kyeburn, Gimmerburn, Hoggetburn, and Wedderburn as a result, and the area is still occasionally referred to as “Thomson’s Barnyard” or the “Farmyard Patch”.

External links and sources

  1. Reed, A. W. (1975). Place names of New Zealand. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed. ISBN 0-589-00933-8.
  • Land Information NZ (LINZ) An authoritative list of New Zealand placenames, used for NZ government maps, is available in various forms. The list does not cover their meanings.
  • NZ Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha Aotearoa – Free download of 55,000 New Zealand placenames. Note: Special care is required, for instance the geographic coordinates are NOT the centroid of the placename, they are the lower left corner of the original label scan from the 260 series maps (1:50 000 Topographic hard copy).
  • “Place names map”. Māori Language Commission. Retrieved 2007-07-11.

Credit: Wikipedia

February 11, 2014/ by / in

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