*Kofe [Proto Polynesian]

Kohe, Kohekohe

Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae)


Alternative name: Māota (See notes and link below.)

From Proto South Central Pacific *Kofe "bamboo", Schizostachyum glaucifolium (Poaceae) through:
Proto Polynesian *Kofe "root",Schizostachyum glaucifolium (Poaceae) and other bamboos; then
Proto Central Eastern Polynesian *Kofekofe "plants with bamboo-like qualities".)

The reduplicated form kohekohe also denotes the kōhia, Passiflora tetranda. This usage may also come from a Proto Central Eastern Pacific source, cognate with the Fijian and Tikopian terms for the sea daisy, Melanthera biflora (Asteraceae). See the notes about this on the pages for *kofe and kōhia.



Tongan: Kofe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium, "Bamboo", Poaceae)
Niuean: Kofe ("Bamboo nose flute" (older meaning); general term for musical instruments)
Samoan: 'ofe (Schizostachyum spp., Bambusa spp.,
"Bamboo [general term]", Poaceae)
Tokelauan: Kohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium and other bamboo species, Poaceae)
Marquesan: Kohe (Bamboo species, Poaceae); Kohekohe (Centosteca lappacea, Poaceae)
Hawaiian: 'ohe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium and other bamboo species, Poaceae; also Isachne distichophylla (Poaceae), Joinvillea sacendens (Joinvilleaceae), Tetraplasandra hawaiensis (Araliaceae);
'ohe'ohe (Tetraplasandra gymnocarpa & T. kavaiensis, Araliaceae; Coix lacryma-jobi "Job's tears", Poaceae)
Tahitian: 'ohe, 'ofe (Schizostachyum glaucifolium & Bambusa arundinacea, "bamboo", Poaceae) 'ohe'ohe, 'ofe'ofe (Centosteca lappacea, Poaceae)
Tuamotuan: Kohe (Bamboo species, Poaceae)
Rarotongan: Ko'e (Bambusa vulgaris "Common bamboo ", Poaceae); Ko'eko'e (various large-leaved grasses, Poaceae)

Māota is an alternative name for the kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae).
The kōhia, Passiflora tetranda, is also sometimes referred to as kohe; this is probably a variant of its more common name, or a reflex of a homonym in Proto Polynesian (possibly both), rather than a reflex of the Proto Polynesian word *kofe denoting bamboo.
Kohepi, Kohepu, the flowers of Dysoxylum spectabile.
Kohepiro, Scandia rosifolia (Apiaceae)
Koheriki, Scandia rosifolia (Apiaceae), Melicope ternata (Rutaceae)

Watch this space! This is a page still very much under construction, but which contains the essential linguistic and botanical information, and to which both text and pictures will be added progressively as soon as time permits. See the "News" for February 2016 for more information.

The primary referent of the Proto-Polynesian term from which these words are derived was a species of bamboo, Schizostachyum glaucifolium, carried by the Polynesians to most of the islands settled from Tonga and Samoa. The reduplicated root, denoting resemblance to the kohe, came to be referred to various straight-stemmed grasses and other plants with bamboo-like qualities in many languages, and in Māori reflexes of both the root and the reduplicated term were used to designate the tree Dysoxylum spectabile, with its straight stems and pulvini, thickenings at the base of the leaves reminiscent of the bases of bamboo fronds.

References and further reading: See general works on NZ trees in the bibliography. Also the NZPCN web page for Dysoxylum spectabile.

Photographs: Yet to come! (But there is one on the page for Māota - link above.)


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