Silver ferns may adorn our sporting heroes’ uniforms, but when they’re representing their country it’s as proud Kiwis.

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Kiwi are a natural fit with New Zealanders’ national psyche – we relate to their quirkiness, evolved over millions of years of isolation from mammals.

As a symbol for a people, kiwi transcend age, gender, race and creed.

Spit and polish

One story about how New Zealanders became Kiwis has its roots in shoe polish.

In the early 1900s, a Scottish-born inventor living in Melbourne developed a boot polish that didn’t just shine shoes, it also preserved, waterproofed and softened the leather. He called it Kiwi polish, in honour of the country his wife called home – before her marriage, Miss Annie Meek hailed from Oamaru.

During World War I, the polish proved so good it was adopted by the British and American armies, and it wasn’t long before New Zealand soldiers were no longer called Fernlanders, Maorilanders or En Zedders, and were called Kiwis instead, a moniker that quickly transferred to New Zealanders in general.

Tracing the evolution of the Kiwi name

Find out more about how the name Kiwi evolved to describe New Zealanders here.