Maori language week: Word for the day

Andrew Little with Pounamu patu
Photoshopped image credit: Boondecker

In honour of Maori Language Week, we at Whaleoil have decided to dedicate one post each day to highlight a Maori word that has particular significance to Maoridom.

Today’s Maori Word of the Week is the Maori word for Greenstone and Jade.

pounamu

1. (adjective) be dark green.

He pounamu ngā rau o te karaka. / The leaves of the karaka tree are dark green.


2. (noun) greenstone, nephrite, jade.

Ko ā rātou rākau patu tangata, he koikoi, he huata, he taiaha, he tewhatewha, he hoeroa; he mea tārai ki te toki pounamu, ki te toki kōhatu (JPS 1899:179). / Their man-killing weapons were spears, lances, taiaha, tewhatewha and long whale-bone weapons fashioned with greenstone and stone adzes.

See also pounemu


3. (noun) glass bottle – named because early bottles were green like greenstone.

Kaua e tuhatuha haere, engari me tuha ki roto i tētahi ipu, pounamu rānei (TKO 11/1920:6). / Don’t spit all over the place, but expectorate into a container or a bottle.

My father wore into battle a pounamu tiki hand carved in Opotiki. It was his lucky charm. During one battle to take a hill in Vietnam, he lost it. He was very upset as it had been his talisman as my mother had given it to him. They were pushed off the hill and later attempted to take it again.

During one of the attempts, my father found his pounamu necklace hanging on a piece of wire. It may have been a fence or barbed wire I am not sure. He put it back on and in that attempt to take the hill they were victorious.

That tiki is now over 50 years old and is similar in colour and design to this one.

Pounamu Tiki from Te Papa


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