The name is often shortened to Taumata by the locals for ease of conversation. The New Zealand Geographic Placenames Database, maintained by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), records the name as "Taumatawhakatangihangak
The name on the sign that marks the hill is "Taumatawhakatangihangak
Other forms of the name are longer still: "Taumatawhakatangihangak
Tamatea-pōkai-whenua (Tamatea the explorer of the land) was the father of Kahungunu, ancestor of the Ngāti Kahungunu iwi. Mention of Tamatea's explorations of the land occur not only in Ngāti Kahungunu legends, but also in the traditions of iwi from Northland, where he is said to have explored the Hokianga and Kaipara harbours. In traditions from the Bay of Plenty region, he left a son, Ranginui, who is the ancestor of Ngāti Ranginui of Tauranga. Legends from the East Coast of the North Island tell of his explorations in Tūranga-nui (Gisborne), Māhia, Wairoa, Ahuriri (Napier), Heretaunga (near Hastings) and Pōrangahau. He travelled via the Mangakopikopiko River, over the Tītī-o-kura saddle via Pohokura to Lake Taupo. The Ōtamatea River and swamp is named after him. Tamatea is also the name of a place in Napier. Early South Island legends say that Tamatea sailed down the east coast. His canoe was wrecked in the far south, and transformed into Tākitimu mountain range. Tamatea then returned to the North Island, and travelled via the Whanganui River.
At that time, while passing through Porangahau, Tamatea encountered the Ngati Hine people and had to fight them to get past. In an ensuing battle known as "Matanui," Tamatea's brother was killed. The famous warrior-explorer was so grieved at his loss that he stayed for some time at that place and each morning he would sit on the knoll to play a lament on his nose flute, known as "Koauau."
Hence the name indicating the hill on which Tamatea, the chieftain of great physical stature and renown, played a lament on his nose flute in the memory of his fallen brother.