Pronunciation of "Ngaio"

Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 9 00:31:19 UTC 2009

Further searching shows up the following from Bruce Harding's
biographical essay at  But
this still sounds like an Anglicization.

Edith Ngaio Marsh’s Taurian date of birth was both richly symbolic and
portentous, given that 23 April is both St George’s Day and the
legendary birthdate of Marsh’s beloved Bard, Shakespeare. The other,
antipodean, aspect of her dual heritage (father a Londoner, mother New
Zealand-born of English stock) is encoded in what became quite early
on her preferred first name. Her parents asked an uncle, a lay
missionary fluent in the Maori language, to choose a suitable
indigenous name for their first-born (as was common practice at the
time), and he selected ‘Ngaio’ (pronounced ‘nye-o’) which denotes a
native evergreen tree but may also connote ‘expert,’ ‘clever,’
‘deliberate,’ ‘thorough’ or ‘restless’ (all applicable to Marsh).

A Maori language site
( indicates that
Maori has word-initial velar nasal, a sound that is spelled <ng> in
Maori orthography.  The vocabulary site on that page lists words
beginning with /N/.


On Fri, May 8, 2009 at 8:22 PM, Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Pronunciation of "Ngaio"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Does anyone know how the New Zealand mystery writer Edith Ngaio Marsh
> pronounced her middle name, which she went by as an author?  Wikipedia
> gives /'naioU/, but I've also heard /'NgaioU/, sometimes with trace of
> an upper mid or high central vowel, and the appalling /n at gaioU/.  I'm
> assuming, on no more grounds than her New Zealand provenance, that the
> name is Maori and that the Maori pronunciation would be /'NaioU/, but
> this obviously would not work for most English speakers.  I don't even
> know for a fact that it would work for Maori speakers.
> Herb
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