On the eastern side of New Zealand's North Island, there is a hill that the locals refer to as Taumata. This, however, is not its real name. It's an abbreviation for a much longer and much harder to pronounce name: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. No joke. If you google that right now, you'll see 4.3 stars out of 5 and a twenty-foot-long road sign. Clocking in at 85 characters, there are actually even longer forms. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu has 92 and I'm not even going to bother listing the 105-letter one. The New Zealand Geographic Placenames Database uses a 57 character form and Guinness World Records recognizes the 85 character version as the longest place name, but I digress. Onto meaning! The official translation of this from the original Maori, according to Wikipedia, is "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one" (Tamatea was a figure present in many Maori folk tales). The Maori language is Tahitic, which is Polynesian, meaning that all of these lengthy words come from the Austronesian proto-language. And now you know.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.