*Qotaqota [Proto Polynesian] ~ Otaota [Māori]
*Talu, *Talutalu [Proto Polynesian] ~ Taru, Tarutaru [Māori]
*Raqa-kau [Proto Polynesian] ~ Rākau [Māori]
*Suli [Proto Polynesian] ~ Huri, Māhuri [Māori]
*Wahie [Proto Polynesian] ~ Wahie [Māori]
This page features a number of words used in different contexts to refer to plants in general, along with the word used when wood is explicitly reserved for burning.
*Otaota "rubbish, weeds"
From PROTO POLYNESIAN *qota "rubbish", perhaps fused with PROTO POLYNESIAN *qota "eat something raw", from PROTO AUSTRONESIAN *Qetaq, "Eat raw".

*Taru, *Talutalu, "grass, herbage":
From PROTO MALAYO POLYNESIAN *talun, "fallow land", through PROTO OCEANIC *talun, "old garden, fallow land, land returning to secondary growth" and PROTO POLYNESIAN *talu, "weeds, fallow land".

*Ra'akau, "wood. tree, timber, stick, spar, mast, weapon":
From PROTO AUSTRONESIAN *dagan > PROTO POLYNESIAN *raqa "branch of a tree" + PROTO AUSTRONESIAN *kaju > PROTO POLYNESIAN *kau "tree" through PROTO POLYNESIAN *raqa-kau, "wood, tree ",

*Suli From PROTO MALAYO POLYNESIAN *suli, "plant shoot, sprout, cutting", through PROTO EASTERN OCEANIC *juli and PROTO POLYNESIAN *suli "banana or taro sucker".

*Wahie From PROTO OCEANIC *papi "bake in a stone oven" through PROTO EASTERN OCEANIC *papie "fuel, firewood", and PROTO-POLYNESIAN *fafie "firewood" to PROTO CENTRAL EASTERN POLYNESIAN *wahie, "firewood".

Proto Polynesian: *Otaota
Tongan: 'ota'ota ("Rubbish").
Niuean: Otaota ("Rubbish, refuse").
Samoan: Reflex ("Rubbish").
Penrhyn: Otaota ("Rubbish, weeds").
Maori: Otaota ("Herbs in general, vegetation, weeds, litter").

Proto Polynesian: *Taru
Niuean: Talutalu ("Fallow land; land out of cultivation").
Samoan: Talutalu ("Fresh growth of weeds").
Marquesan: Ta'u ("To cultivate a garden").
Hawaiian: Kalukalu ("Rushes of the family Cyperaceae used in weaving").
Tuamotuan: Taru ("Weeds, herbage, grass").
Rarotongan: Tarutaru ("Cut weeds, grass clippings, scraps, rubbish").
Maori: Taru, Tarutaru ("Herbage, weeds").
Moriori: Taru ("Grass").

Proto Polynesian: *Ra'akau
Niuean: Akau ("Wood, tree").
Samoan: Lā'au ("Wood, tree, plant").
Rapa Nui: Ra'akau ("Castor oil shtub").
Marquesan: 'akau ("Tree").
Hawaiian: Lā'au ("Wood, tree, plant, timber, fprest, stick, spar, mast").
Tahitian: Rā'au ("Plant, tree, wood").
Tuamotuan: Rākau ("Wood, tree, bush, plant, twig, stick, log").
Rarotongan: Rākau ("Wood, tree, shrub, plant, pole, rod, stick, weapon").
Maori: Rākau ("Wood, tree, timber, stick, spar, mast, weapon").
Moriori: Rakau ("Tree").

Proto Polynesian: *Suli
Tongan: Hōli ("Sprout from the root of a plant; sapling "), Huli ("Shoot, sprout, twig, sucker").
Niuean: Huli ("Young shoots of taro, banana, etc; seedling, young tree").
Marquesan: Hu'i ("Shoot, branch, plant").
Hawaiian: Huli ("Taro top used for planting").
Mangareva: 'uri ("Banana shoot").
Rarotongan: 'uri ("Shoot, sucker, young plant, seedling, sapling").
Maori: Huri ("Young shoot, seed"); Māhuri ("Young tree, sapling").

Proto Central Eastern Polynesian: *Wahie
Marquesan: Vehie ("Firewood").
Hawaiian: Wahie ("Firewood").
Tahitian: Vahie ("Firewood").
Rarotongan: Va'ie ("Firewood").
Maori: Wahie ("Firewood").

He pākura e kō ana i roto i te otaota -
A pūkeko among the vegetation at Lake Hakanoa, Huntly, A/NZ
Photo by Noel Jones, Wikimedia Commons
Regenerating grass, Israel
Nga wāhi tarutaru hou -
Grass regenerating after a forest fire, Israel
Photo courtesy Times of Israel

Ilocano (Philippines): Talon ("Rice field")
Javanese (Indonesia): Talun ("Harvested")
Toba Batak (Indonesia): Talun ("Uncultivated land")

Tagalog (Philippines): Suwi ("plant shoot")
Tboli (Philippines): Suli' ("new shoots, of plants such as banana, abaca, ginger, pineapple, and bamboo")
Iban (Malaysia): Suli' ("plant sucker, shoot, runner ")
Wayan (Fiji): Suli ("Banana or taro sucker")

Woleaian (Micronesia): Fafiya ("firewood ")


This page is unusual in that it deals with five words referring to "plants" which have both overlapping and contrasting meanings and referents. To make it easier to find your way through the labyrinth, from this point on there will be links that will enable you to trace the sections referring to each individual word and its use in whakataukī, mōteatea and Biblical contexts separately if you wish to, without having to bother about the others. You can also return to this introductory section or go back to the top of the page from each sub-section.

Either scroll down to embark on the whole expedition, starting with the notes on rākau, below, or go to:

the use of rākau in whakataukī and mōteatea, and in Te Paipera Tapu;
otaota, its use in mōteatea, and in Te Paipera Tapu;
taru and tarutaru, their use in whakataukī and mōteatea, and in Te Paipera Tapu;
māhuri, its use in mōteatea, and in Te Paipera Tapu;
wahie, and its use in Te Paipera Tapu;
further information and credits, the gallery, return to this introductory section, or go to the top of the page.

Rākau. The Māori word rākau is derived from a Proto-Polynesian word reconstructed as *ra'akau, which seems to be a blend of Proto Polynesian *ra'a "branch of a tree" and Proto Polynesian *kau "wood, timber". *Ra'a is not reflected directly in Māori, but does appear as lālā in Sāmoan and lā in Pukapuka; *kau likewise appears in Tongan and Niuean as kau, "wood, timber". In Samoan and most Eastern Polynesian languages the combined form covers trees and plants (especially woody plants) in general, as well as wood and timber.

The Williams dictionary identifies five primary meanings for rākau in te reo Māori: (1) tree; (2) wood, timber"; (3) stick; (4) weapon; and (5) wooden (really just a descriptive variant of the second meaning). In some contexts, it is also used where "plant" would be an appropriate translation. The first four meanings are reflected in whakatauakī and traditional mōteatea, and whole range of meanings can be found in the way the word is used in Biblical contexts.

Continue on, skip to the introduction to otaota,
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Rākau in Whakatauākī

If we forget about the word "rākau" itself for a moment, the idea behind the word is implicit in a number of sayings, such as these:

Ahakoa whati te manga, e takato ana anō te kōhiwi.
Although the branch is broken off, the trunk remains’ – Misfortunes will not ruin an individual or enterprise whose foundations are sound. M&G 20

He mahi anō tā te tawa uho, he mahi anō tā te tawa parā.
The functions of the heartwood are one thing; those of the sapwood are another’ – Those who are properly brought up are the reliable workers ... M&G 534

Tāne, the god of the forest, is the originator and protector of trees. This whakataukī refers to felling trees to make the ground ready for planting, generally not so destructive an action several centuries ago – but one which has less benign implications in these days of clear-felling and exotic plantations:

Takato kau ana te whānau o Tāne.
The offspring of Tāne lie prostrate’. M&G 2191.

Other whakataukī deal explicitly with trees as rākau, for example:

E kore e ngaoko te rākau ki te tīkina ki te pūtake e whakangaoko ai, engari me tiki ki te matamata.
A tree does not itch if touched at its base, but rather when the extremeties are moved.’ – To influence an organization, start with the smaller elements. M&G 152

Moku ano enei ra, mo te ra ka hekeheke; he rakau ka hinga ki te mano wai! 'Let these few days be for me, for the declining sun; a tree falling through many floods of waters'. That is: Be kind and considerate to the aged. WC 200.

William Colenso comments that this last saying was "used by the old, and often with effect; of which I knew a remarkable instance that happened in 1852, when Mr. Donald M`Lean, the Land Purchase Commissioner, paid the chief Te Hapuku, the first moneys for land at Hawke's Bay. An old chief, named Te Wereta, who resided at Wharaurangi, between Castle Point and Cape Palliser, uttered these words, and he got a lion's share of that money—and he lived more than twenty years after."

Te Wereta may have had in mind another whakataukī, indicating that nothing in life is secure, and applied it (prematurely, as it turned out), to his own situation in his autumn years:

He rākau ka hinga ki te mano wai.
A tree that will fall to the flood.’ M&G 670. A proverb similar to the Samoan saying ‘Ua tafea ‘o le tau‘ofe' -- "the bamboo shoots have been swept away [as by a flood]".

Nonethless, although the vicissitudes of life can wreck havoc on the external appearance of trees and people alike, the inner core may belie the outward appearance:

He rākau tawhito, e mau ana te taitea i waho rā, e tū te kōhiwi.
An ancient tree with sapwood just adhering to the outside and only the heartwood standing firm.’ This metaphor for an old person whose body is infirm but whose spirit is indomitable is taken from an ancient song about peacemaking, quoted in the next section, below.

Bare or branchless trees figure in several sayings:

He māmore rākau e taea te tōpeke ake; tēnā he wai moana e kore e taea te rere.
A branchless tree can be climbed with a looped rope, but the ocean expanse cannot be sailed.’ M&G 541 Some problems are easy to solve, others pose severe and possibly insuperable difficulties. However:

He rākau morimori, e kore e taea te piki. ‘A tree shorn of branches cannot be climbed.’M&G 671. For a difficult project, don’t try shortcuts ... and

Me he rākau māmore au nei, tū tonu.
I stand straight up, like a branchless tree.’ M&G 1837 - a metaphor for a childless man.

The faults of trees however are more apparent than those of humans:

He piko rākau e taea te titiro, tēnā he piko ngākau e kore e kitea.
The crookedness of a tree can be seen, but not that of the heart’. A mental or moral kink is not always evident. M&G 634

Rākau as "wood" appears in at least one saying, and as a weapon in another:

Kāore a te rākau whakaaro, kei te tohunga te whakaaro.
The wood has no thoughts, the thoughts are the carver's. WC 118

He tao rākau e karohia atu ka hemo; te tao kī, werohia mai, tū tonu.
A thrown wooden spear warded off, passes away; the spoken spear, well aimed, wounds deeply. WC 58

A further use of rākau is to represent metaphorically technology and inventions generally - beautifully illustrated in Sir Apirana Ngata's inscription on a young girl's autograph book:

E tipu e rea mō ngā rā o tō ao
Ko tō ringa ki ngā rākau a te Pākehā
Hei ora mō te tinana
Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tīpuna Māori
Hei tikitiki mō tō māhunga
Ko tō wairua ki tō Atua, nāna nei ngā mea katoa.

Grow up o tender vine for the days of your world.
Your hands to the tools of the Pākehā for the welfare of your body
Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors as a circlet for your head
Your spirit to God, the source of all things.

Continue on, or skip to Whakatauakī featuring taru(taru), or wahie;
return to the introduction to "Rākau", the general introduction,
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Rākau in Ngā Mōteatea

The word rākau occurs almost 60 times in Ngā Mōteatea, generally with the primary meaning of "tree", although not always translated so literally, as in some of the examples below (all the translations in the extracts from Ngā Mōteatea are those from the published source).

Tē āta kitea atu e au te pae ki te whenua, ē
I te wai o te kamo ka utuhia ki waho, ē
I te mate i ahau i te pō roa nei, ē
I te kore rawa rā kīhei rawa i whāiro, ē
Ngā rākau o te hore kia mōwai ana, nā!

Only dimly can I see the distant horizon
Through the spray of my gushing tears,
All the long night I toss in pain
I could not gain the faintest glimpse
Of the peaceful grove, where lie the dead.

Tipare-o-Niu, nā Hinewahirangi (Ngāti Porou) NM 2: 7-11.
(Ngā rākau o te hore – literally “the trees of the burial place”.)

Engari te tītī e tangi haere ana, ē,
Whai tokorua rawa rāua;
Tēnā ko au nei, e manu ē,
Kei te hua kiwi i mahue i te tawai;
Ka toro te rākau kai runga, ē,
Ka hoki mai ki te pao,
Ka whai uri ki ahau.

Fortunate the tītī, as it cries in its flight,
It has the company of its mate;
As for me, my bird, I am like
The egg, abandoned by the kiwi at the tawai roots.
They spread and embrace it;
When the mother returns for the hatching,
The progeny is such as I.

He Tangi mō te Mokemoke (A Soliloquy), Mihikitekapua (Ngati Ruapani, Tūhoe) NM 18:1-7.

(Ka toro te rākau kai runga ... literally, “the tree spreads out above”.) The author in her old age had been abandoned by her children in the remote fastnesses of Te Urewera. There was a belief that kiwi abandoned their eggs among the roots of the tawai (tawhai, silver beech, Lophozonia menziesii, illustrated on the left), sometimes for long enough for the roots to grow over the egg and prevent the chick from ever leaving the nest, hence an excellent metaphor for the composer's isolation.

Taku tamaiti, ē!
I puta mai ra koe i te toi ki Hawaiki;
Kai tō urunga, kai tō ekenga,
Hutia e Maui,
Ka maroke te whenua ki uta,
Ka tupu te rākau hei tamaiti māku.

Oh child of mine, ah me!
Emergent are you from the origin of Hawaiki;
From your pillow you blossomed forth,
Hauled forth by Maui,
What became dry land on shore,
And a tree grew to be a child for me.

He oriori (A lullaby) by Te Ao-tawera (Whanganui). NM 270 1-6.

The author of that poignant mōteatea was a childless lady, who composed the song for her surrogate child fashioned from wood.

The source of the whakatauākī about "he rākau tawhito" (an ancient tree) quoted in the previous section is in these verses from an equally ancient song, referring to the peaceful outcome of a quarrel between Rongomaraeroa and Tūmatauenga “o tāwahi mai rā anō” – in a distant time and place:

Nō te mea ia rā he rākau tawhito,
E mau ai te taitea i waho,
E tū te tahiwi.

Verily, that cometh from an ancient tree,
With sapwood barely adhering without
And only heartwood standing firmly.

-- He Waiata mō te maungarongo (A song about peacemaking) NM 115:9-11.

Examples of rākau as a term for weapons can be found in the next two examples:

Kātahi, e ‘Poki, ka tahuri tō rākau toa
I ngaua pūtia e te ipo wahine,
Te whatinga i reira te puhi o te waka ....

At last, O ‘Poki, thy sturdy weapon failed thee,
It was bitten off by a cherished maiden,
And thus was broken the plume of the canoe ....

He Tangi Mō Tupoki, A lament for Tupoki, Maropounamu (Ngati Tama, Taranaki). NM 149:38-40.

The notes to the poem explain the reference thus: I mua atu o te whawhai nei ka whai kupu a Tupoki kia kaua he tangata e kai. Otirā nā tāna mokopuna wahine tonu, nā Te Waero i takahi tōna kupu; ko ia i aituā ai. “Before the battle Tupoki had forbidden his men to partake of food. But it was his own granddaughter, Te Waero, who disobeyed his orders, thus bringing disaster upon them.

Rākau as weapon also features in this cosmological section of a lullaby for a well-born child:

Haramai, e tama, i te ara ka takoto i a Tāne-matua;
Kia whakangungua koe ngā rākau matarua nā Tū-mata-uenga;
Ko ngā rākau tēnā i patua ai Tini o Whiro i Te Pae-rangi;
Ka heke i Taheke-roa, koia e kume nei ki te pō tangotango ....

Come, o son, upon the pathway of Tāne-te-parent;
To your dedication with the two-edged weapon of Tū-the-war-god,
Those were the weapons that smote the hordes of Whiro-the-evil-god at the Barrier-of-the-heavens;
They fled down the Long-descent, and now lure (mankind) to the night of utter darkness ....

He oriori mō Tu-tere-moana (A lullaby for Tu-tere-moana), Tu-hoto-ariki (Ngai Tara), NM 201:33-4.

However the weapons are not necessarily the conventional instruments of war or combat; even before the age of Covid the term rākau covered also biological weapons, as in these verses addressed by the composer to the person who had afflicted her with leprosy:

... Ko tāu rākau
Kei te mata ngira tonu te ngotonga ki roto rā.
Auē! Te mamae! Ī.

... Yours the weapon.
Sharp as a needle point as it penetrates deeply within.
Ah me! The pain of it!

He waiata mō te mate ngerengere. A song for a leprous malady. Te Rohu (Ngati Tuwharetoa).

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return to the introduction to "Rākau", the general introduction,
go to the Gallery, or to the top of the page.

Rākau in Te Paipera Tapu

There are 483 occurrences of the word "rākau" in Te Paipera Tapu, covering a wide range of meanings. A small sample of them is presented here.

Trees are mentioned early in the Book of Genesis, along with other plants -- in the Māori translations rākau generally refers to trees and shrubs, with other words like otaota and tarutaru used to denote smaller herbage; its Samoan cognate, lā'au, however has a wider range, as in this verse:

Genesis 01:11 PT Na ka mea te Atua, Kia pihi ake te tarutaru i te whenua, te otaota whai purapura, me te rākau hua, ki runga ki te whenua, e hua ana ona hua, he mea rite tonu ki a ia, kei roto nei i a ia ōna purapura: a ka oti.
KJV And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
RSV And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so.
TP ‘Ona fetalai mai lea o le Atua, “‘Ia tupu le vao mu‘a mai le ‘ele‘ele ma le la‘au afu e tupu ma ona fua ma le la‘au e ‘aina ona fua, e fua mai e ta‘itasi ma lona uiga, o ‘iā te ia lava o ona fatu i luga o le ‘ele‘ele;” i le ‘ua fa‘apea lava.

Occasionally, however, rākau is used in a more general sense (as in this example, where Samoan uses a more specific term):

Isaiah 53:02 Ka tupu ake hoki ia ki tona aroaro ano he rākau wana ....
KJV For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant ...
RSV For he grew up before him like a young plant ...
TP Na tupu a‘e o ia e pei o se tātupu i ona luma ....

More commonly, however, rākau refers to trees, shrubs, sticks and timber:

Proverbs 13:12 He manako taringa roa, he patu ngākau: ka tae te koronga, ko te rākau ia o te ora.
KJV Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
RSV Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Genesis 21:15 A kau pau te wai i roto i te taha, na whakarerea iho e ia te tamaiti i raro i tetahi rakau iti.
KJV And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
RSV When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.
TP ‘Ua uma fo‘i le vai i le fagu pa‘u, ‘ona tu‘u atu ai lea e ia le tama i lalo ifo o le tasi la‘au itiiti.

Ecclesiastes 10:09 Ko te tangata e tārai ana i nga kōhatu, ka mamae ano i reira; ko te tangata e tata ana i te rākau, ka ora noa ano i reira.
KJV Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
RSV He who quarries stones is hurt by them; and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
TP O lē na te ‘ave‘esea ma‘a e tigā ai o ia; o lē na te isia lā‘au e lavea ai o ia.

Habakkuk 02:11 Ka karanga hoki te kōhatu i roto i te pakitara, ka whakahoki kupu anō te kurupae i roto i nga rākau.
KJV For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
RSV For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.
TP Auā e ‘alaga mai le ma‘a a‘i le pā puipui, o le fa‘alava fo‘i a‘i le lā‘au e tali atu i ai.

Interestingly, where the wood is explicitly intended for burning, the Māori translation will generally use the word wahie, "firewood" (also featured on this page); however where the end use is indeterminate, as in the example below, rākau will generally be used. In this verse the Samoan translation, however, uses the term fafie, the Samoan counterpart to Māori wahie:

1 Kings 17:10 Na whakatika ana ia, haere ana ki Harepata. A, no tona taenga atu ki te kuwaha o te pa, na ko tetahi wahine i reira, he pouaru, e kohikohi rākau ana. A ka karanga atu ia ki a ia, ka mea, Mauria mai he wai mōku i roto i te oko, hei inu māku.
KJV So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
RSV So he arose and went to Zar'ephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink."
TP: ‘Ona tula‘i lea o ia ma alu i Sarefata; ‘ua o‘o ia i le faitoto‘a o le ‘a‘ai, fa‘auta, ‘ua i ai le fafine ‘ua oti lana tane, o lo‘o fai fafie; ‘ona vala‘au lea o ia ‘iā te ia, ‘ua fa‘apea atu, “Se‘i ē ‘aumai sina vai itiiti i se ipu, so‘u inu ai.”

Continue on, or skip to Biblical uses of otaota, taru(taru), mahuri or wahie;
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Otaota is a generic term covering most kinds of vegetation, including herbs in general, vegetables, and weeds. It overlaps in meaning with taru and tarutaru, although those terms refer most often to smaller plants and grasses, and have a wider range of metaphorical uses than otaota -- otaota does not seem to feature in whakatauākī, and occurs only once in the first three volumes of Ngā Mōteatea. Both tarutaru and otaota can also refer to miscellaneous rubbish.

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Otaota in Mōteatea

The solitary occurrence of the word otaota in Nga Mōteatea is in a somewhat uncomplementary reference to a certain gentleman in a pātere, by Titoko (Whakatohea), where the subject of comment is said to be:

Me he pākura kai aka raupō,
Te kō ana i roto i te otaota.

Like a raupō root-eating swamp hen,
Making bird noises in the undergrowth
. (NM 223:043-4)

(A larger segment of this song is quoted in the page for aka).

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Otaota in Te Paipera Tapu

Otaota appears 39 times in reference to plants in Te Paipera Tapu. In the King James Bible, its English counterparts are mostly "herb" or "herbs" (31 occurrences), with scattered appearances as "grass", "provender" and other general terms. In the Revised Standard Version, however, there is no dominant English equivalent; there are 13 parallels with "plant" or "plants", but it is also the counterpart of "rushes", "grass", "herbs", "herbage", "shrubs", "vegetables", "vegetation", "straw", "stubble", and "provender": basically, a general term for (mostly living) vegetation. Some of these uses are illustrated in the examples below.

Genesis 03:18 He tataramoa ano hoki, he tūmatakuru ana e whakatupu ake ai māu; a ka kai koe i te otaota o te pārae;
KJV Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field
RSV Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
TP E tutupu mai ai o la‘au tuitui ma la‘au talatala ‘iā te oe, ‘e te ‘ai fo‘i la‘au afu o le fanua.

Proverbs 27:25 Kua whaiti te hei, e kitea ana te tupu hou, a e kohikohia ana nga otaota o ngā maunga.
KJV The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
RSV: When the grass is gone, and the new growth appears, and the herbage of the mountains is gathered, 
TP ‘Ua tutupu mai le mutia ma ‘ua iloa mai le vao mu‘a, e fa‘aputuina fo‘i le vao iti o mauga.

Jeremaiah 14:6 Nā ka tū ngā kaihe mohoao i runga i ngā wāhi tiketike, ka kihakiha anō he kirehe mohoao; matawaia ana ō rātou kanohi, kāhore hoki he otaota.
KJV And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.
RSV The wild asses stand on the bare heights, they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail because there is no herbage.
TP O asini fo‘i o le vao ‘ua tutū i mauga tula, na latou sogisogi i le matagi e pei o luko; ‘ua ‘avea o latou mata, auā e leai ni vao iti.

In the well-known parable of the mustard seed, referring to the "black mustard", Brassica nigra, of the Mediterranean (illustrated on the left), the tiny seed once germinated is transformed into te nui rawa o ngā otaota (the greatest of herbs in the older English text, greatest shrub in the newer) and then caused-to-be-a-tree (whakarākau) in Māori; in Samoan it is transformed from a lā'au 'afu "spreading plant" to a lā'au tele "tall tree".

Matthew 13:32 He iti rawa ia i nga purapura katoa: a ka tupu, ko ia te nui rawa o nga otaota, a whakarākau ana, no ka rere mai nga manu o te rangi, ka noho ki ona manga.
KJV  Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
RSV  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
TP e itiiti lava ia i fua o la‘au uma; pe a uma ‘ona tupu, e sili afu, e i‘u ‘ina fai ma la‘au tele, e ō mai ai manu felelei ma latou momoe i ona la.”

Combinations of both adopted and indigenous words are often employed, in Māori and Samoan alike, to convey what would have been novel ideas when local people first encountered Biblical texts.

Isaiah 5:24 Mo reira ka rite ki te kainga a te arero o te ahi i te kakau witi, ki te hinganga o te otaota maroke ki roto ki te mura; ka pērā tō rātou pakiaka te pirau, ka rere tō rātou puawai ki runga, anō he puehu ....
KJV Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust ....
RSV Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust ....
TP O lenei, fa‘apei ‘ona ‘aina o tagutugutu saito i le mumū o le afi, e pei ‘ona pa‘u‘ū fo‘i le mutia magumagu ‘ua mū, e fa‘apea fo‘i ‘ona pala o latou a‘a. E pusa a‘e fo‘i lo latou fuga e pei o le efuefu....

In both the Māori and Samoan texts, "stubble" is translated by "stumps of wheat", where the word for "wheat" is adapted from English (wīti) and Greek (saito, from sitos) respectively; for chaff, local words are used in both languages, mutia magumagu "dry (or withered) grass", in Samoan, and otaota maroke "dry vegetation" in Māori. Another instance of this is the use of otaota as a general term for food intended for immediate consumption, in this case probably implying that it consists of fresh vegetables, in contrast to the kakau witi "wheat stalks", i.e. hay, that was also supplied (here the Samoan text also has stalks of wheat ('au o saito), in contrast to "things to eat (mea e 'ai)":

(Genesis 24:32 Nā ka haere taua tangata ki te whare, a wetekina ana e ia ngā mea o ngā kamera; i hōmai anō e ia he kakau witi me tētahi otaota hei kai ma nga kararehe, me te wai hei horoi mō ōna waewae, mō ngā waewae hoki o ōna hoa.
KJV And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men's feet that were with him.
RSV So the man came into the house; and Laban ungirded the camels, and gave him straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.
TP ‘Ona ulufale lea o le tagata i le fale; ‘ona tatalaina lea e Lapana o kamela, ma avane ‘au o saito ma mea e ‘ai ma kamela, ma vai fo‘i e mulumulu ai ona vae, ma vae o tagata na ō mai ma ia.

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Taru, Tarutaru.

The reduplicated root, tarutaru, refers to herbage in general (rather than especially to garden herbs and vegetables), small vegetation and grass. The simple form, taru, has a similar range of meaning in relation to plants, but often with unpleasant or disparaging implications. The word can also mean the equivalent of "anything" or "something", with no definite referent.

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Taru in Whakatauākī

The implications of undesirability are well reflected in whakataukī, where the word taru refers to unwanted plants, and also to metaphorical herbage that one would rather do without.

E taru ana i tāku.
‘The weeds grow in my garden”.

The response of a kaumatua criticized for the weeds in his garden – it was his garden and he would take care of the weeds in his own time! (M&G 242)

He taru tawhiti.
A weed from far away. (M&G 745)

As in the mōteatea (in the next section), the "weed" here is an imported pest or malady.

Ka tata ki a koe nga taru o Tura!
The weeds of Tura are near thee! (WC 187 M&G 1454, 1695)

In other words, you are becoming grey-haired or looking old. Tura was one of the early explorers of Aotearoa. William Colenso recounts that he is said to have gone ashore in "a land inhabited by a strange and rather savage people". There he learned about hina (grey hair), kiritona (warts and other eruptions on the skin), whēwhē (boils) kea (snot and suppurating sores), and tapu – these are the weeds of Taru, and especially hina, the sign of old age and the imminence of death.


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Taru and Tarutaru in Mōteatea

The generally unpleasant associations of taru, as against the neutral connotations of the reduplicated form, are apparent also in the way these words have been used in mōteatea, where taru often refers metaphorically to a contagion or malign influence from a distant source.

.... Kai te kimi noa au
I te pūtake o taku mate.
Mahara tonu iho tēnei,
He taru tawhiti e wawara nei ....

... Vainly I do seek
The reason for my malady.
Thinking upon it,
It seemed like the affliction from afar ....

He Waiata Tangi (A Song of Lament), Hinematererangi (Ngati Porou), NM 166:012-5


Ka hua i tō mate, nā ngā taru kē o tawhiti, ē,
Kāore ia nei, ē, nā te takahi kino a tō tipuna, a Ngaoko-i-te-rangi.

‘Twas thought your illness was due to foreign weeds,
Now ‘tis known ‘twas the ill-deeds of your ancestor, Ngaoko-i-te-rangi.

He Tangi (A lament) by Hine-Hou (Ngati Porou), NM 212:1-2

In this case the “foreign weeds” are diseases introduced from abroad, as also in the next example.

Rokohanga mai au e whakatakune ana
I te taru o tawhiti.

You have found me here distraught
With this malady from distant lands
He waiata aroha (A sorrowful song), by Potatau te Wherowhero (Waikato), NM 230: 10-11.

Te taru o tawhiti referred to by Pōtatau was influenza.

And again, also with somewhat negative associations:

Me aha rawa rā he wai kawa e ora ai?
Me tiki rawa rā ki te tūtūmako,
Ngā taru kawa, e, o te wao a ‘Tara

What bitter waters can now revive you?
One could only fetch the tūtūmako,
Bitter herbs, indeed, from the forest of ‘Tara.

He Apakura (A song of grief) Anonymous (Ngati Porou) NM 211:8-10.

The tūtūmako is a herb, Euphrasia cuneata (illustrated on the left). Murdoch Riley reports that this plant was traditionally used by a tōhunga to provide an "ara atua" or exit pathway for the spirit of a dying person. The plant is associated with spiritual healing to assist the soul to leave the body in tranquility. The commentary on Ngā Mōteatea identifies "te wao o 'Tara" as Te Wao Nui a Tuatara, a possibly mythical forest. The tūtūmako, however, is definitely not a mythical plant. It was first described botanically by George Forster in 1786, but is more likely to be found along streamsides in open rocky places than in forests.

In the next example, the use of taru highlights the unsatisfactory situation produced by the lack of vegetation rather than its presence:

He ākau kore taru nō Te Wanapoto,
Hai whakapiripiringa mōhoku ki reira. Ī.

There are no seaside groves at Te Wanapoto
Where I might find a trysting place, alas.

He waiata aroha (A love song) Author unknown (Ngati Pikiao), NM 237: 13-14.

He ākau kore taru – literally a coastline devoid of vegetation. The locality named, Te Wanapoto, is near Matata, in the Bay of Plenty. Vegetation is in abundance in the next example, however, and referred to by the reduplicated forn of the word:

Tēnei nei te para-tāhae,
Whakamataku ana te taringa,
Ko ngā tarutaru e maha,
O te pūkohu o te ngahere,
O te Wao-nui-a-Tāne,
He kiwi, he weka, he toko kōkako,
Kia hara mai hei toko
Mō tō taokete ....

Perhaps sneaking hither is another,
His ears a-tingle with fear,
As he treads upon the spreading herbage
Of the mossy woodland floor,
Of the Great-forest-of-Tāne.
The kiwi, te weka, the high-stepping kōkako,
They come as allies
For your brother-in-law ....

He waiata whakaaraara pā (A sentinel’s song)
NM 289: 9-16.

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Taru in Te Paipera Tapu

The expression he taru kino "an evil weed" is often used to signify a malign (or at the least unpleasant) phenomenon, whether tangible or not. In Biblical texts occurs in its literal meaning -- in this passage in the book of Job it is paired with tatarāmoa, the "bush lawyer" liane often also used as a symbol for unwanted and annoying obstructions and afflictions. The Samoan and Revised Standard Version translations are similar to the Māori in leaving the nature of the other "weeds" to the reader's imagination; the King James text however specifies "cockle" (Agrostemma githargo), a blue-flowered weed (illustrated on the left) which is often found in cornfields in England and other parts of Europe. In the Māori imagination, at least in the nineteenth century, the much less benign tūmatakuru, paired with tatāramoa in other texts, is probably just as likely to have come to mind.

Job 31:39-40 Ki te mea i kainga i ahau ōna hua, he mea kīhai i utua, ā nāku rānei ōna ariki i mate ai; Nā, kia riro pū te witi i te tatarāmoa, te parei i te taru kino. Heoi anō ngā kōrero a Hopa.
KJV If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life: Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.
RSV  if I have eaten its yield without payment, and caused the death of its owners; let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley." The words of Job are ended.
TP ‘āfai ‘ua ‘ou ‘aina ona fua ma le lē tauia, ma ‘ou fa‘asaunoa i ē pule i ai, ‘ia tupu mai ai le la‘au talatala e sui a‘i le saito, ma le vao leaga e sui a‘i le karite!” ‘Ona gata lea o ‘upu a Iopu.

The King James version also specifies a particular plant for the taru kino in the next text, but in this case it refers to a Palestinian plant, known in English as tares or darnel (Lolium temulentum, pictured in the gallery) which is probably the plant referred to in the original text -- it is a wheat-like grass which is found as a weed in Middle Eastern wheatfields. It is often infected by a poisonous fungus, and therefore a truly noxious plant. Another candidate is the thistle-like Syrian scabious (Cephalaria syriaca, illustrated on the left) which, although not poisonous (and not a grass), has a wheat-like grain which is difficult to separate from those of the wheat and can give bread made from the resulting flour a bitter taste. Perhaps because of their poisonous or unpleasant qualities, both these weeds are reputed to have medicinal properties. The Samoan text uses an adaptation of the Greek word for darnel, titanion, in this context.

Matthew 13:25 A, i nga tangata e moe ana, ka haere mai tona hoariri, ruia iho he taru kino ki waenga witi, a haere ana.
KJV But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
RSV but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
TP ‘ua momoe tagata, ‘ona alu ane ai lea o lē ‘ua ita mai ‘iā te ia, ‘ua na lūlūina le titania i totonu o le saito, ‘ona alu ‘ese ai lea o ia.

There are several species of "bitter herbs" referred to in Biblical texts; in this case the English translations specify wormwood, Artemesia herba-alba (pictured on the left), a desert plant which scholars have long identified with laanah in the Hebrew text. This is an aromatic and rather bitter-tasting shrub which provides a remedy for intestinal worms, hence the English name. However Michael Zohary (Plants of the Bible) notes that there is no particularly strong evidence, despite the scholarly tradition, to equate laanah with Artemesia. In the example quoted below, the Samoan translators use an adaptation of the Hebrew word, while the Māori translation sticks to generalities.

Proverbs 5:3-4. Ko nga ngutu hoki o te wahine kē, kei te maturuturunga iho o te honikoma, ngāwari iho tōna māngai i te hinu. He kawa rawa hoki tōna mutunga i te taru kawa; he koi, anō he hoari matarua.
KJV For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
RSV For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;  but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
TP: Auā e fa‘asisina ifo meli a‘i laugutu o le fafine ‘ese; o lona gutu fo‘i e sili ‘ona molemole i le suāu‘u; ‘ae mulimuli ane ‘ua ‘o‘ona ia, e pei o le laena; e ma‘ama‘ai o ia, e pei o le pelu ‘ua fa‘atau ma‘ai ona itū.

Another "bitter herb" often pared in Hebrew with laanah is rosh, poison hemlock (Conium macluatum), portrayed on the left, or poison in general -- the two Hebrew words are often paired and virtually interchangeable, hence "poison" for rosh in the RSV translation and "wormwood" for laanah, which is rendered as "hemlock" in the King James translation. The Māori text parallels the King James treatment of rosh as gall (au), and uses the descriptive phrase for laanah. The Samoan text avoids the problem of identification by simply adapting the Hebrew words to Samoan phonology. The hemlock plant is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), and found its way to Aotearoa as a weed in the nineteenth century. All parts of it are highly poisonous, and it is quite likely that a decoction of this plant is what killed Socrates.

Amos 6:12 E rere ranei te hoiho i runga i te kamaka? e parautia ranei a reira ki te kau? i whakaputaina ketia ai e koutou te whakawa hei au, nga hua hoki o te tika hei taru kawa.
KJV Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:
RSV Do horses run upon rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood
TP E taufetuli ‘ea solofanua i le papa pe suatia ai ‘ea e se tasi i povi? auā ‘ua ‘outou liu i rosa le fa‘amasinoga ma le fua o le amiotonu i laena.


Tarutaru in Te Paipera Tapu

The word tarutaru is most often used in Te Paipera Māori as the equivalent for Hebrew and Greek words translated as "grass" in both the King James and Revised Standard versions of the Bible. Occasionally, as in the first example below, it corresponds with terms like "hay", "plants", "vegetation", "pastures", or even "lilies" or "flowers" in one or other version. However 46 of its 62 occurrences are translated as "grass" in both translations. Originally it probably would have brought to mind one of the native grasses and sedges, like the "hair grass" Deschampsia cespitosa (pictured on the left). Soon however this would have been superseded by the pasture grasses introduced by the missionaries, and the settlers from abroad who followed in their wake.

Psalm 23:02 Ko ia hei mea kia takoto ahau ki nga wāhi tarutaru hou: e arahi ana ia i ahau ki te taha o nga wai ata rere.
KJV He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
KJV he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; 
TP  Na te ‘ave a‘u i le mea e i ai le vao mu‘a ‘ou te ta‘oto ai, na te ta‘ita‘i ‘iā te a‘u i tafatafa o vai e tafe lemū.

Proverbs 19:12 Ko te riri o te kingi rite tonu ki te hamama o te raiona; ko tana manako ia ano he tomairangi i runga i te tarutaru.
KJV The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass.
RSV A king's wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew upon the grass
TP  O le to‘asā o le tupu, e tusa lea ma le tagi o le leona ta‘anoa; a o lona alofa, e tusa lea ma le sau i le mutia.

However there are times where tarutaru conveys the meaning of the original perhaps better than the English word "grass". The references to "flowers of the grass" in the verses from James and Peter, quoting Isaiah's "flowers of the field", all tarutaru in the Māori texts, refer not to grass, but to annual plants like the Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus), illustrated on the left, and wild camomile (Anthemis tinctoria), pictured below, or the Middle-Eastern poppy (Papaver rhoeas) and crown daisy (Glebonis coronaria), included in the gallery at the end of this page.

James 1:10 Me te tangata taonga anō, i te mea ka whakaititia: ka memeha atu hoki ia, anō he puāwai tarutaru. [Z 172, 175]
KJV But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
RSV  and the rich in his humiliation, because like the flower of the grass he will pass away. 
TP a o lē mau‘oa ‘ia ‘oli‘oli o ia ‘ina ‘ua fa‘amaulaloina; auā e mavae atu ia pei o fuga o la‘au.

so also:

1 Peter 1:24 Rite tonu hoki ki te tarutaru nga kikokiko katoa; ko te kororia katoa ano hoki o te tangata, ano he puawai tarutaru. E maroke te tarutaru, e ngahoro tona puawai:
KJV For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away;
RSV for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 
TP  Auā, “O tagata uma lava e tusa ia ma le mutia, o le matagofie uma fo‘i o tagata e pei o le fuga o le vao. E magumagu le mutia, e to‘ulu fo‘i ona fuga.

Peter's and James' "flowers of grass" are the same as Isaiah's flowers of the field", quite different from the true grasses, like the pasture grasses referred to in the first quotation in this section. In the text from Isaiah, below, the Samoan translation refers to them as le fuga o le vao -- the blossoms of the grassland (or wilderness), and the other references are all to mutia, a more precise term for grass that Māori tarutaru.

Isaiah 40.6-8 I mea mai te reo o tetahi, Karanga. Ā ka mea tētahi, Ko te aha kia karangatia e ahau? He tarutaru nga kikokiko katoa, a ko tōna pai katoa, rite tonu ki te puāwai o te pārae. Ko te tarutaru ka maroke, ko te puāwai ka memenga, nō te mea e hangia ana e te wairua o Ihowa: he pono, he tarutaru te iwi. Ko te tarutaru e maroke, ko te puāwai e memenge; ko te kupu ia a tō tātou Atua, tū tonu.
KJV The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 
RSV A voice says, "Cry!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. 
TP ‘Ua fai mai le leo, “‘Inā ‘alaga ia.” ‘Ona fai atu lea o ia, “Se a ‘ea se ‘upu ‘ou te ‘alagaina?” O tagata uma o le mutia i latou ma lo latou lelei uma, e tusa lea ma le fuga o le vao. E magumagu le mutia, e to‘ulu le fuga; auā o le mānava o le ALI‘I ‘ua agi mai i ai; e moni o le mutia lava le nu‘u. E magumagu le mutia, e to‘ulu le fuga; a o le afioga a lo tatou Atua, e tumau lea e fa‘avavau.


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Māhuri is a general term for a young tree or sapling, incorporating the Proto-Polynesian root *suri, which was applied particularly to banana and taro shoots, but derived from a Proto Malayo Polynesian tern for shoots or sprouts generally, and carrying that more general meaning also in its Māori reflex, huri.

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Māhuri in Ngā Mōteatea

The tōtara (Podocarpus totara) is a noble lowland forest tree, which can grow over 30 m in height and live for more than a thousand years. It is a symbol of strength, vitality and esteem, and the death of an important person is frequently likened to a tōtara having fallen in the great forest of Tāne. In these two mōteatea the death of a young person is compared with the untimely felling of a totara sapling, like that pictured on the left.

Hurihuritia iho rā, e hoa mā, ē,
Tā tātau māhuri tōtara,
Nō roto te wao tapu nui a Tāne.

Turn her about, O friends,
Our sapling tōtara
From the most sacred forest of Tāne
(He tangi tawhiti (A song from afar), by Piki-Huia (Tūhoe) NM 232: 35-7)

This was part of a song seeking to avenge the death of a young relative (the “māhuri tōtara”) by means of mākutu. The second song refers perhaps to a casuaty of warfare.

Taku māhuri tōtara ka hinga i a Rehua,
Taku piki-kōtuku ka māwhe i a Matiti ...

My sturdy young tōtara fell in the time of Rehua,
My heron-plume has dropped in the heat of Matiti.

(He tangi mo Rehe-Taia (A lament for Rehe-taia). Author unknown (Ngati Mutunga, Taranaki). NM 290: 4-5.)

The time of Rehua is that marked by the appearance of Rehua (Antares), the star of summer, and thus also the time of war. Matiti is another star indicating the warmer part of the year, from November to April.

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Māhuri in Te Paipera Tapu

The word māhuri appears four times in Te Paipera Tapu, conveying the impression of a vigorously growing young tree in a variety of metaphorical contexts, where the English translations range from "plantations" (as does the Samoan) in the first example to shoots and plants in general. In the second example below, the Samoan phrase tama'i olive means a small olive tree, or an olive shoot or sapling.

Ezekiel 34:29 A ka ara i ahau he mahuri whai ingoa ma ratou, e kore hoki ratou e riro i te hemokai i runga i te whenua, e kore ano e mau ki a ratou te numinumi i nga tauiwi a muri ake nei.
KJV And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more.
RSV And I will provide for them prosperous plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 
TP ‘Ou te fa‘atupuina fo‘i mo i latou le fa‘ato‘aga e ta‘ua, e lē toe fa‘aumatia i latou i le fia ‘ai i le nu‘u, e lē toe o‘o lava ‘iā te i latou le fa‘amasiasiga o nu‘u ‘ese. 

Psalm 128:03 E rite tāu wahine ki te waina hua, i roto rawa i tōu whare: āu tamariki ki nga māhuri oriwa, i ngā taha o tāu tēpu.
KJV Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
RSV Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
TP E ‘avea lau avā pei o le vine fua tele mai i totonu o lou fale; o lau fānau e pei o tama‘i olive e vagavagai lau la‘o‘ai.

Psalm 144:12 Ā, kia rite ā mātou tama i tō rātou taitamarikitanga ki nga māhuri e tupu ake ana; ā mātou tamahine hoki ki ngā kōhatu kokonga, whakapaipai rawa, nō te whare rangatira te tauira;
KJV That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:
RSV May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
TP ‘Ina ‘ia ‘avea o matou atali‘i pei o la‘au totō, ‘ua tupu tele a o taulele‘a i latou; o matou afafine ‘ia pei o tulimanu ‘ua togitogiina e pei o se maota.

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The word "wahie" conveys the idea of "wood intended for burning", which overlaps but is not quite identical with the meaning (or use) of the English equivalent term, "firewood".

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Wahie in Whakatauākī

"Wahie" features in a proverbial injunction to pay attention in a timely manner to what needs to be done to ensure that the prosperity of oneself and the comunity is assured:

Te wahie ka whāia mō takurua, te kai ka mahia mō tau.
Firewood is sought for winter, food is laboured after for the year. (Colenso #25; M&G #2480)

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the general introduction, go to the Gallery, or to the top of the page.

Wahie in Te Paipera Tapu

In the four examples below, the English translations simply use "wood" (or, in one case, "sticks") where the Māori specifies wahie, and the Samoan texts use the cognate form fafie. The end use of the wood determines the choice of words in Māori, and also in Samoan.

Genesis 22:06 Na ka tango a Aperahama i te wahie mo te tahunga tinana, a whakawaha ana e ia ki a Ihaka, ki tana tama; a ka mauria e ia he ahi i tona ringa me tetahi maripi; a haere tahi ana raua.
KJV And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
RSV And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 
TP ‘Ua ‘ave fo‘i e Aperaamo le fafie e fai a‘i le taulaga mū ma fa‘ae‘e ai ‘iā Isaako lona atali‘i, ‘ua ‘ave fo‘i e ia i ona lima le afi ma le polo, ‘ona ō ai lea o i lā‘ua. 

Jeremaiah 7:18 Ko nga tamariki kei te kohikohi wahie, ko nga matua kei te whakau i te ahi, ko nga wahine kei te pokepoke i te paraoa hei hanga i etahi keke, he mea ki te kuini o te rangi .... 
KJV The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven ....
RSV The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven ....
TP ‘Ua fai fafie e le fānau, ‘ua tafu le afi e o latou tamā, ‘ua lomi le paluga falaoa e fafine e fai a‘i fa‘apāpā areto mā le tupu fafine o le lagi ....

Proverbs 26:20 Ki te kāhore he wahie, ka mate te ahi: ki te kore hoki he tangata kawekawe kōrero, ka mutu te ngangare.
KJV Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
RSV For lack of wood the fire goes out; and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases
TP A leai se fafie, e mate le afi; a leai fo‘i se faitatala, e leai fo‘i se misa.

Acts 28:03 Na ka kohikohia e Paora he pupu wahie, a maka ana e ia ki te kapura: heoi puta mai ana he neke i te wera, ka mau ki tona ringa.
KJV And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
RSV Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 
TP: ‘Ua fa‘aputu e Paulo le ‘avegā fafie, a fa‘ae‘e i le afi, ‘ona sau ai lea o le gata uogo ‘ona o le vevela, ma pipi‘i i lona lima.

Continue on, or return to the introduction to "Wahie",
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"Ka memeha atu hoki ia, anō he puāwai tarutaru".
Pappaver rhoeas - one of the Biblical "flowers of the grass".
(Photo by Kaboodkamari. WikiMedia)
Crown Daisy
"Ā, ko tōna pai katoa, rite tonu ki te puāwai o te pārae".
Glebonis coronaria - another "flower of the field" or "flower of grass".
(Photo by Dr Zach I Evenor, Israel. WikiMedia)
"Ruia iho he taru kino ki waenga witi" - "Darnel was sowed among the wheat"
Darnel, Lolium temulentum, a weed with toxic and medicinal properties.
Photo by H. Zell, Wikipedia
"Kia riro pū te witi i te tatarāmoa" - "Let thistles grow instead of wheat"
Tatarāmoa, Rubus schmidelioides v. schmidelioides, a much more formidible
obstacle than most thistles! (Photo: (c) Peter de Lange, NZPCN)
Further information : An excellent source of information about the Biblical plants is Michael Zohary's Plants of the Bible (Cambridge University Press, 1982). See the page on tataramoa for information about the one Māori specific plant name mentioned in the Biblical texts quoted here. Further linguistic information can be found in Volume 1 of The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic, and the Pollex database -- see the Bibliography for details.

Photographs: Most of the photographs on this page are of Middle Eastern plants mentioned in the Biblical texts, and we are greatly indebted to the contributors to Wikipedia and WikiMedia who have made them available with attribution for non-Commercial use. Our thanks also to Peter de Lange and Mike Thorsen, and Jeremy Rolfe NZPCN, for permission to use their photographs of the tatarāmoa (in the gallery, above), the tawai, and the grass Deschampsia cespitosa (in the text) respectively; the photo of the tūtūmako is also by Mike Thorsen; that of the tōtara, the other NZ native plant in this lineup, is by RB, Te Māra Reo. The other photographs in the gallery are acknowledged with links to the source file in the captions. The photographs from Wikipedia and WikiMedia embedded in the text are by "Totogiviste" (Brassica nigra), "BerndH" (Agrostemma githargo), "Floratrek"(Artemesia herba-alba), William and Wilma Follette (Conium maculatum), "SuperJew" (Ranunculus asiaticus), and "Alvesgaspar" (Anthemis tinctoria). The picture of Cephelaria syriaca is from the Kew Gardens database.

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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