Historians (e.g. Michael King) have suggested that the use of Aotearoa to mean 'New Zealand' was initiated by Pākehā (non-Māori). He theorises that it originated from mistakes in the February 1916 School Journal and was propagated in a similar manner to the myths surrounding the Moriori. Influenced by this English-language usage, Aotearoa is now the term used by Māori.
Another well-known and presumably widely used name for the North Island is Te Ika a Māui (The fish of Māui). The South Island was called Te Wai Pounamu (The waters of greenstone) or Te Wāhi Pounamu (The place of greenstone). In early European maps of New Zealand, such as those of Captain James Cook, garbled versions of these names are used to refer to the two islands (often spelt Aheinomauwe and Tovypoenammoo). After the adoption of the name New Zealand by Europeans, the name used by Māori to denote the country as a whole was Niu Tireni, a transliteration of New Zealand. When Abel Tasman reached New Zealand in 1642, he named it Staten Landt, believing it to be part of the land Jacob Le Maire had discovered in 1616 off the coast of Argentina. Staten Landt appeared on Tasman's first maps of New Zealand, but this was changed by Dutch cartographers to Nova Zelandia, after the Dutch province of Zeeland, some time after Hendrik Brouwer proved the South American land to be an island in 1643. The Latin Nova Zelandia became Nieuw Zeeland in Dutch. Captain James Cook subsequently called the islands New Zealand. It seems logical that he simply applied English usage to the Dutch naming, but it has also been suggested he was possibly confusing Zeeland with the Danish island of Zealand.
Aotearoa gained some prominence when it was used by New Zealand band Split Enz in the lyrics to their song Six Months In A Leaky Boat. Their use of the name for New Zealand could have spread wider had the song not been 'discouraged from airplay' by the BBC in the UK. The ban was due to the ongoing Falklands War and a belief that the song would have been bad for British morale during the conflict.