Austronesian words for seahorse (Hippocampus spp.)

Bruce Biggs b.biggs at
Sat May 8 03:11:56 UTC 1999

        Sea-horses are striking looking creatures, widespread in the Pacific.
Why can I not find Polynesian names for them? Mele woose t'tai and Tongan
hoosi-tahi don't count. I know the missionaries who wrote many of the
dictionaries didn't spend much time at the beach. And you can't eat a
sea-horse as far as I know and Polynesians were not neurotic about their
sexual prowess. (New Zealand is farming sea-horses to supply the Asian
aphrodsiac market).
The few modern Maori I've asked have not been able to give me a name, but
Williams's Dictionary of the Maori Language (5th and later editions) gives
several terms, all but one equivalent to "sea-rat". The exception is manaia,
a word that usually refers to a beaked, one-eyed carved figure that features
in house-carvings here.
Does Hippocampus have a name in other Austronesian parts?

Bruce Biggs

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