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Updated May 4, 2023

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Polynesia is an area in the Pacific Ocean with more than 1,000 islands. The word Polynesia is Greek for many islands. And If one were to draw a line on a map, the major islands create a triangle with Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the South, and Easter Island appropriately to the east. 

Each island and group of people have its own culture, traditions, and religion. While there may be some shared traits and traditions, there is no single Polynesian culture. 

However, European colonialism drastically changed Polynesian culture globally. Within Polynesia, there are six independent nations, many territories, self-governing bodies, and political bodies part of larger nations. 

One of the unique things about Polynesia is that it doesn’t experience seasonal temperature changes. Instead, the weather hovers around 80 degrees daily. As a result, there is a wide variety of tropical fauna, and wildlife found nowhere else. 

Some of this region's most popular baby names are inspired by nature and the Polynesian gods. Others are direct influences of English and European colonialism and outside cultures.

Polynesian names are a beautiful choice for your new baby, so if you’re considering a name from this region, read on to discover what each name means and its origins.

Common Polynesian Girl Names and Meanings

  1. Alana - German/Hawaiian. Precious awakening. 
  2. Kalama - Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Torch or light. Typically a feminine name, this name can be used for boys and girls. 
  3. Kailani - Hawaiian. Sea and sky. An alternate spelling is Kalani which means the heavens.
  4. Keola - Hawaiian. Alive, health, well-being. 
  5. Ulani - Hawaiian. This beautiful-sounding name means cheerful. Lani is a cute nickname for this popular choice!

Common Polynesian Boy Names and Meanings

  1. Anaru - Maori. A derivative of the English name Andrew. 
  2. Iosefa - Samoan. The Polynesian version of Joseph. 
  3. Kenoi - Kenoi is the Polynesian form of the English name John. 
  4. Maui - Hawaiian/Pacific Islander/Maori - Maui is a Polynesian god known for being a trickster. It is also the name of the overconfident demi-god in Disney’s Moana. 
  5. Tane - Maori/Pacific Islander. This Maori name means god of the forests. 

Hawaiian  Name Inspiration 

Hawaii is probably the part of Polynesia Americans are most familiar with; it is part of the United States and a hot vacation destination. Hawaii is an archipelago with eight major islands and many smaller ones formed by volcanic eruptions under the ocean. 

The Hawaiian islands were settled by Polynesian natives roughly 1500 years ago. They stayed autonomous until the first European settler, Captain James Cook, made contact in 1778. In 1810 King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian islands, and his dynasty reigns until 1874.

Hawaiin Girl Names and Meanings

  1. Alaula - Hawaiian. Light of dawn, sunrise. 
  2. Auli’i - Hawaiian. Delicious or dainty. Auli’i’ Cravalho is the actress who voiced Disney’s Moana. 
  3. Iolana - Hawaiian. This unique name means soaring bird. 
  4. Kaia - Hawaiian. Calm waves, the sea. Alternate spellings Kya, Kyah, Kaiah. 
  5. Kala - Hawaiian. The Hawaiian form of Sarah. It means princess. 
  6. Kiana - Hawaiian. Divine and ancient.
  7. Leilani - Hawaiian. Heavenly flower.
  8. Makana - Hawaiian. This less popular name means a gift from heaven. 
  9. Moana - Maori/Hawaiian. From the ocean, This name inspired the Disney movie by the same name. 
  10. Noelani - Hawaiian. Mist of heaven. 

Hawaiin Boy Names and Meanings

  1. Akamai - Hawaiian. Clever or intelligent.
  2. Akamu - Hawaiian/Hebrew. A variant of Adam. From the earth, red clay. 
  3. Haikili - Hawaiian. Thunder god.
  4. Kalino - Hawaiian. The brilliant one, one who is intelligent. 
  5. Keanu - Hawaiian. Cool mountain breeze. Most people know this name because of the Matrix actor Keanu Reeves. 
  6. Koa - Hawaiian. Warrior. Valiant one. 
  7. Kukane - Hawaiian. The great man.
  8. Makani - Hawaiian. Wind.
  9. Maleko - Hawaiian. Warlike.
  10. Mikila - Hawaiian/English. The Hawaiian form of Michael, who is God.

Hawaiin Unisex Names and Meanings

  1. Aloha - Hawaiian. A joyful show of love, it is also the way to say hello or goodbye. Not a traditional name, but it is sometimes used as a name. 
  2. Anani - Hawaiian. Orange tree or fragrant. 
  3. Kaipo - Hawaiian. Affectionate. Not a popular name for either gender, but this adorable name means sweetheart or darling.
  4. Lono - Hawaiian. The name comes from the Hawaiian god of agriculture and rainfall.
  5. Makini - Hawaiian. Wind. 

Tahitian Baby Names and Meanings

Tahiti is part of French Polynesia, located roughly 2,400 nautical miles south of Hawaii. Tahiti boasts a tropical climate with an estimated 3,000 hours of sunlight per year. Native Tahitians are believed to be a group of Polynesian natives that arrived between 300 and 800 AD. 

They developed a political and religious system centered around high priests, family relations, and chiefs. Unfortunately, the system disappeared due to European influence. 

Native Tahitians intermarried with French Europeans, and as a result, many modern Tahitian names have a French influence. 

Tahitian Girl Names and Meanings

  1. Mahana - Tahitian. This pretty name means sun. 
  2. Rarahu - Tahitian/French. The French version of the Tahitian name Rarau. Although we couldn’t track down the meaning of this name, we know it was used by French author Pierre Loti in his autobiographical novel Le mariage de Loti.”
  3. Rainia - Tahitian. Calm sky. 
  4. Tiare - Tahitian. Flower. 
  5. Vaima - Tahitian - Spring water. 
Polynesian girls

Tahitian Boy Names and Meanings

  1. Hiroiti - Tahitian. Little king Hiro it is the name of a Polynesian god. 
  2. Oro - Tahitian. The Polynesian god of war. 
  3. Raiariinui - Tahitian. Supreme chief of heaven. 
  4. Tamatoa - Tahitian. From the words tama for child and toa for a warrior. Tamatoa is the name of the ancient supernatural crab in Disney’s Moana. 
  5. Teva - Tahitian. Not to be confused with the sandal brand, this name means infinite. 

Unique Polynesian Names and Meanings

Because of their difficulty to pronounce in Western languages, many Polynesian names have been shortened or anglicized; others simply fell out of use. Here are some unique and meaningful Polynesian names. 

  1. Ahohako - this unique name means storm. 
  2. Elikapeka - This is the Hawaiian version of Elizabeth. 
  3. Fetia - Tahitian. This feminine name means star. 
  4. Kawailani - Hawaiian. This pretty girl’s name also has a lovely meaning; heavenly mist.
  5. Kinipela - Hawaiian. Wave. 
  6. Lanuola - A girl’s name that originated in Samoa; it means the color of life. 
  7. Maevarau - This Polynesian name means well wishes or welcome wishes. It is traditionally a boy’s name. 
  8. Pio - Italian/Maori. A boy’s name meaning pious or devout.
  9. Rangi - Samoan/Maori. This name means sky or heavens. It is used for boys and girls. 
  10. Sione - Tongan. This unique name is a version of John. 

L. Elizabeth Forry

About L. Elizabeth Forry

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom… Read more

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