I don't remember a lot of my Shakespeare quotes from high school but I do remember the line from Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet says "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

By saying this line Juliet is referring to the name Montague, Romeo's whanau name which was as different to Juliet's as Tutanekai's name (and tribe) was to Hinemoa's.

So what's in a name? As we head into Maori Language Week 2017 I thought I would look at Maori names and their importance.

My Maori name is Ngahihi-o-te-ra.


It means the rays of the sun, I was named by elders before I was born.

My son's name is Eruera which means wealthy guardian of the word/language and my daughter's name is Tumanako Titihuia Tanirau.

Tanirau is my mother's maiden name and is a well known Ngati Tahu/Whaoa name.

Tumanako Titihuia means hope, the prized possession.

When I consider our whanau Maori names I know those names have been influential in our lives.

For example Eruera is a guardian of languages and is conversant in Maori, Spanish and English and is currently learning Dutch as well.

Anyone who knows my daughter will know that she is appropriately named and has brought hope to many situations and people.

So why do people choose Maori names?

For starters, as mentioned above, we name people for the characteristics we would like to see them portray.

In the case of Eruera he was the first of our children to go to kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Maori and we wanted his name to signal that he would be all the wealthier and better for learning te reo Maori and being a guardian of the Maori language.

I have Pakeha friends who have given their kids Maori names, so it is obviously not only Maori who use the language in this manner.

Some New Zealanders want their kids to have a New Zealand indigenous name, and it doesn't get any more indigenous than Maori.

Having said that, when I was at school us Maori kids sometimes gave our Pakeha mates Maori names too, but those names were a bit cheeky to say the least, aye Koretake.

It is said that we die twice.

The first time is when we die physically and the second time is when our name is mentioned for the last time on earth.

Some people retain Maori names - and therefore the Maori language by passing down names of those they want to remember.

I am sure there are children out there with the name Apirana (Ngata) and when they have asked where their name came from they were told of their tupuna and his achievements for Maori.

Similar to English equivalents where I have signed my books for people named after celebrities such as Marilyn who was named after Marilyn Monroe or Judy after Judy Garland.

Their names ensure famous ancestors and celebrities are remembered and those people never die that second death.

Others give their loved ones Maori names to keep their whanau name alive so ancestors are remembered, while some use Maori names to remember an event that took place or some special occasion or even a special place that had a Maori name.

Using Maori names is another way of keeping the Maori language alive.

It can also be a challenge for some teachers in our schools to pronounce Maori names correctly and I think that is a good thing.

I have heard every attempt possible at my name and have had my name Ngahihi-o-te-ra butchered through the years by people who did not know better, and that's okay, because I am Maori.

And as a Maori I refused to let people use my other name Patrick, even though I was given that name to honour my grandfather who adopted my mum, before going overseas to Tunisia where he lost his life.

In giving people Maori names we are not only keeping memories of loved ones alive and being prophetic with a child's life but we are also honouring one of New Zealand's three official languages, te reo Maori.

Maori names and their use are a reminder of a language that was nearly lost.

What's in a Maori name? More than just another Maori language week, a lot more.

Me u Maori ma - Speak te reo Maori.

- Ngahihi o te ra is from Te Arawa and is an international leadership speaker, author and consultant.