Māori language expert weighs in on Mia Māori name debate

By Heta Gardiner

Language Expert Tāwhirimātea Williams weighs in on the debate over the 'Māori name' Mia.

Williams says, in his opinion, it is a word that can be used in a Māori sentence, but it's not a name.

“Like the word inumia (to drink) it is in instances like that, that you hear the word 'mia'. So in that context, it is a Māori word. In my opinion, it is not a Māori name, but a word that can be used in the Māori language.”

This comes after the release of the most popular baby names of 2018. The most popular Māori boy's names were Nikau, Ari, Manaia, Mateo, and Ihaia. The most popular Māori female names were Mia, Ari, Maia, Ariana, and Nina. Some have argued that some of those are not Māori names. 

“Because it sounds beautiful off the tongue, because it has a nice sound to it, it has become a name people give to their children, their daughters,” said Williams of the name Mia.  

The Department of Internal Affairs worked with the Māori Language Commission to define what qualified as a 'Māori name' for their list of names in 2018. The Commission told Te Kāea, “If the names followed te reo Māori orthography, i.e. using letters or digraphs from the Māori alphabet and following rules such as all syllables ending in a vowel they were included even if the names are known in other languages.”