In the upcoming (Sept 1!) fantasy novel, ARROWS OF HEAVEN, I sort of retconned the name of my quasi-Polynesian people, the Mora. It was just a made up name originally, meaning nothing in particular. Yes, it sounds a little like ‘Maori’ and I always recognized that, but it was originally intended to be an earlier version of ‘Molu,’ a name that I had applied to a people who appear later — language shift and all that.
But it sounds enough like certain real Polynesian words that I was able to give it a meaning, allowing for a language shift there, as well. In AOH, it is explained by the priest Hito, speaking to a non-native speaker of the Mora language, that it means — more or less — ‘sleeping sky’ or maybe ‘peaceful sky.’ The implication is that the words have connotations beyond their literal meaning, a common occurrence in the rather complex language of the Mora.
Here’s the passage where it occurs, a little past half-way into the book:
“You understand the meaning of Mora?” he asked.
“I think so.” Rahiniti sounded uncertain; the literal meaning was obvious but our language has many nuances.
“Mora is the name of our land but it also means us, for we are one. The land of the sleeping sky, a place of rest after the storm-filled journey that brought our ancestors here.” Hito paused and took a sip of his wine. “Hoka’s wives are going to teach me the making of this,” he said, before returning to our topic.
Hoka himself slept in the sun by his house, his breath rasping.
“It is not something we think of, most of the time.” He looked up at his wife, standing beside him. “Mehetu reminded me of it. She is full of old tales and wisdom.”
“But not old herself,” she reminded him.
“Certainly not.” I think that might have been a private jest.
None of this is particularly important, of course, and the passage was intended to provide a little glimpse of the Mora people’s past, not to explain their language. That was just a fringe benefit.