PROTO-POLYNESIAN ETYMOLOGIES
*Aute [Proto Central Eastern Polynesian] ~ Aute [Māori]
*Kaute [Proto Polynesian] ~ Aute [Māori]
*Malo [Proto Polynesian] ~ Maro [Māori]
*Siapo [Proto Polynesian] ~ Matahiapo [Māori]
*Aute, *Malo, *Siapo, Broussonetia papyfera, "Paper mulberry" (Moraceae)
*Kaute, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, "Hibiscus" (Malvaceae)
Aute, Possibly from PROTO POLYNESIAN *Kaute, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, "Hibiscus" (Malvaceae), but that word, from an earlier Eastern Central Pacific *Kaute (Hibiscus sp.) is reflected with the Proto-Polynesian meaning in Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, Rarotongan and many other Polynesian languages (excluding Hawaiian and NZ Māori). Like the aute, the bark of many Hibiscus species is suitable for making paper-like fabric.

Proto Central Eastern Polynesian: *Aute
REFLEXES IN SOME POLYNESIAN LANGUAGES:
Tahitian: 'aute (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae)
Marquesan: Ute (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae)
Hawaiian: Wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae)
Rarotongan: 'aute (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae)
Rapa and Tupuaki (Austral Islands): Aute (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae, and cloth and other products made from the bark of the tree.)
Māori: 'aute (Broussonetia papyrifera, "Paper mulberry", Moraceae and cloth and other products made from the bark of the tree.) Also Pimelia longifolia (Thymelaeaceae) and Hebe diosmifolia (Plantaginaceae) - see notes below.

Tapa-Samoa
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(Plant photograph to come)
Tapa-Samoa
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(Plant photograph to come)

RELATED WORDS
Proto Polynesian : *Kaute (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, "Hibiscus", Malvaceae). See note at the beginning of this page.
Proto Polynesian: *Malo "Barkcloth loin garment"), from Proto Malayo Polynesian *maru, "Tree whose bast is used for barkcloth", through Proto Central Eastern Malayo Polynesian *malaw and Proto Oceanic: *Malo "Paper mulberry", Brousonetta papyrifera; barkcloth, loin cloth". See notes below.
Proto Eastern Polynesian: *Mata-Siapo, "Firstborn", from Proto Polynesian *Siapo (Broussonettia papyrifera, "Paper Mulberry", Moraceae). See notes below.


The aute is a "canoe plant", carried by the Polynesian voyagers throughout Polynesia, probably picked up by their Austronesian forebears in the New Guinea area after they had left the Philippines (although the plant is present in Taiwan, and indeed is cultivated as far north as Southern Japan).

Despite its importance in Polynesian cultures, this tree has undergone changes in name at various points of the journey, before it arrived in Polynesia and then within Polynesia itself. The oldest of these words is *malo, once a generic term for trees whose bark yielded material for cloth, and which during the sojourn in the Bismarck archipelago came to mean the aute and its products. By the time it reaches Fiji, this word has come to mean a loin cloth, skirt or kilt, a meaning retained in Samoan (malo), Hawaiian (malo), Tahitian (maro), Marquesan (ma'o), Rarotongan (maro) and Maori (maro), along with many other Polynesian languages.

As the generic term for Broussonetia papyrifera and its products, *malo survives as far as Fiji (the contemporary Bauan term is malo), but is replaced by *siapo in Proto Polynesia. It is retained with this meaning in Tongan and Niuean (hiapo) and refers to the cloth made from the aute in Samoa (siapo), where the tree itself is referred to as u'a.

That word ceases to be a plant name in Eastern Polynesia, but is retained in the derived form *matasiapo to denote a first-born child whose birth would have been greeted in distant times and places, at least, by gifts of specially crafted fabric, probably made from the bark of the aute. This meaning is retained in Hawaiian (makahiapo), Rarotongan (mata'iapo), Tahitian and Tuamotu (matahiapo); in NZ Māori the meaning shifts a little fiurther, and matahiapo becomes a generic term for precious or prized.

Although the first East Polynesians would either have brought the paper mulberry with them, or acquired it shortly afterwards from their western homeland, they adopted a completely new name for it, *aute, which survives in East Polynesian languages to denote Broussonettia papyrifera, as aute in NZ Māori and variants of this in other contemporary languages (see the list of reflexes, above).

In Aotearoa the name has also been applied to two other plants; unmodified to Hebe diosmifolia, and qualified as aute tāranga to Pimelia longifolia. The Pimelia was the source of fibre for an inferior kind of cloth, hence the name. The case of Hebe diosmifolia is more difficult to solve. The only apparent resemblance of this small Northland tree to the Broussonettia is its slender, leggy trunk, and that may indeed have earned it the Māori name. It has no other!


Sunset-Tiapapata
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(Reserved for a different picture!)
Kauri+Text
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(Reserved for a different picture!)
Further information : (See Bibliography).
Photographs: (Te Māra Reo, RB.)

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License