Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden
*Maika ~ *Meika
Musa x paradisiaca, also M. troglodytarum and other banana cultivars (Musaceae).


This Eastern Polynesian doublet replaced the reflexes or the earlier and much older Proto Polynesian word *futi to denote banana cultivars in most Eastern Polynesian languages. Originally it would have denoted varieties of the cooking bananas M. x paradisiaca (which was carried to most parts of Polynesia when they were first settled) and M. troglodytarum (which was brought from Near Oceania, but was not taken to Hawaii and some other island groups until much later). When other varieties of banana were acquired from contacts with English, French, Spanish and American explorers and traders, they also were generally referred to by reflexes of one of these words.

As far as we know the banana was not carried to New Zealand, or at least did not thrive here. Instead, some species of orchids with edible tubers were named after the *maika, and a kumara variety became known by a reflex of *futi. This reflects the extraordinary importance and utility of the banana wherever it was grown -- the fruit of one of the varieties transported to Polynesia, M. troglodytarum, was not very appetising even when cooked, but, like the orchid tubers, was a useful food and supplement to the more palatable M. x paradisiaca in times of want, and both species had many other additional uses, from lining ovens to providing poultices for wounds and dye from the sap. In the Philippines banana fibre is still used for weaving fine formal garments, and in Hawaii nectar from banana flowers was a traditional food for babies. .

Rapanui: [Maika (Musa x paradisiaca & other banana cultivars)]
Tahitian: Me'a (Musa x paradisiaca & other banana cultivars)
Marquesan: Mei'a (Musa x paradisiaca & other banana cultivars)
Hawaiian: Mai'a (Musa x paradisiaca cultivars)
Rarotongan: Meika (Musa x paradisiaca cultivars)
Maori: Mäikaika (Orthoceras strictum, O. novaeseelandiae, Thelymitra paucifolia, T. longifolia & T. pulchella [Orchidaceae]; Mäika kä, Arthropodium cirrhatum [Liliaceae])

Related Word: *Futi Musa x paradisiaca & other banana cultivars (from Proto Malayo-Polynesian *punti)

Metrosideros fulgensMai'a (Musa x paradisiaca) and lena (turmeric), Limahuli Garden, Hanalei, Kaua'i

Further information: See the page on *futi - link above the photograph - for further information about Musa spp.
Photograph: RB

Hue flower

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