Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
Mosses, seaweeds and lichens (generic term)
PROTO-POLYNESIAN, from PROTO OCEANIC *limut, "Generic name for moss, algae and seaweeds;" a fusion of PROTO MALAYO-POLYNESIAN *limu "moss" and *lumut "moss, lichens".


Judging by the evidence from Western Malayo-Polynesian languages, Malcolm Ross (Proto Oceanic Lexicon, Vol 3, pp. 76-7) suggests that two separate Proto Malayo-Polynesian words, *limu "seaweed" and *lumut "moss" may have been fused into a single word, reconstructed as * limut, in Proto Oceanic, and used as a generic term for mosses, algae and seaweeds. (The word *lumut is reflected unchanged in many contemporary Philippine languages, meaning "moss"; terms for "seaweed" vary widely.)

When in Hawaii I came across a photograph of a Hawaiian seaweed that made the extension in Aotearoa of this name to include the rimu tree (Dacrydium cupressinum -- see the link opposite) seem a highly logical choice, but I neglected to note the source. However, I did find a photograph of a Hawaiian moss, reproduced on the right, which is highly reminiscent to the rimu tree, and also an article on the Singaporean "Wild Singapore" web site about the feathery green seaweeds, some of which, at first glance, bring into mind the foliage of trees like the rimu. The one illustrated here has yew-like "leaves", and shares the same botanical specific name, taxifolia, meaning "yew-like foliage", as the miro. This species obviously reminded the botanist who gave it its scientific name of a tree.

In Hawaii the reflex limu is used to refer to mosses, lichens and all plants growing submerged in both fresh and salt water, and includes also soft corals; the expression limu pae "seaweed washed ashore" is used denote a somewhat unwelcome wanderer. Interestingly, in Rapanui the primary meaning of rimu seems to be to cut up or grind, and secondarily a particular kind of seaweed when when it has been washed up on the shore and dried out. In Tuamotuan, a econdary meaning of rimu, according to the Stimson dictionary, is "moss-like hair" -- unfortunately, this deefinition is not made more explicit or illustrated!


Tongan:Limu (Seaweed, moss)
Niuean: Limu (Seaweed, moss)
Samoan: Limu (Seaweed, moss)
Rapanui: Limu (A seaweed sp., beached & dried)
Tahitian: Rimu (Seaweed, moss, lichen)
Marquesan: 'imu (Seaweed, loss, lichen)
Hawaiian: Limu (Seaweed, moss)
Tuamotuan: Rimu (Seaweed, moss; "moss-like hair")
Rarotongan: Rimu (Moss, seaweed)
Maori: Rimu (Mosses & seaweeds, also Dacrydium cupressinum [Podocarpaceae]; rimurimu (seaweed, moss (generic); mildew))

Rimu - detail
A Hawaiian moss (species unknown).

Rimu - detail
Caulerpia taxifolia (Narrow feathery green seaweed, Singapore)


Photographs: The image of the Hawaiian moss is from the "Star Shine" web site: http://www.star-shine.com.au/Personal/HawaiiFernBody.htm. The photograpgh of the pan-tropical narrow feathery green seaweed, Caulperia taxifolia (Caulerpaceae), is from the “Wild Singapore” web site, which has a very interesting page on this and other feathery seaweeds: http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/plants/seaweed/chlorophyta/taxifolia.htm


Hue flower

Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand
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