Māori Language Week

Page 3 – 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know

100 words in te reo Māori

Maori Language Week quiz

These words are grouped according to the following functions and associations:

We have included individual sound files of spoken versions of all these words – just click on the word and it will be spoken! (See also pronunciation notes and te reo for email.) New: 365 more useful Māori words and phrases

Hear the late Tairongo Amoamo read the complete list: click on arrow to play or download as mp3 (493kb)

The marae

  • Hui meeting, conference, gathering 
  • Marae the area for formal discourse in front of a meeting house; or the whole marae complex, including meeting house, dining hall, forecourt, etc. 
  • Haere mai! Welcome! Enter! 
  • Nau mai! Welcome! 
  • Tangihanga funeral ceremony in which a body is mourned on a marae 
  • Tangi short (verbal version) for the above; or to cry, to mourn
  • Karanga the ceremony of calling to the guests to welcome them onto the marae 
  • Manuhiri guests, visitors 
  • Tangata whenua original people belonging to a place, local people, hosts
  • Whaikōrero the art and practice of speech making
  • Kaikōrero or kaiwhai kōrero speaker (there are many other terms) 
  • Haka chant with dance for the purpose of challenge (see other references to haka on this site)
  • Waiata song or chant which follows a speech
  • Koha gift, present (usually money, can be food or precious items, given by guest to hosts)
  • Whare nui meeting house; sometimes run together as one word – wharenui
  • Whare whakairo carved meeting house
  • Whare kai dining hall
  • Whare paku lavatory, toilet
  • Whare horoi ablution block, bathroom

Concepts

  • Aroha compassion, tenderness, sustaining love
  • Ihi power, authority, essential force
  • Mana authority, power; secondary meaning: reputation, influence
  • Manaakitanga respect for hosts or kindness to guests, to entertain, to look after
  • Mauri hidden essential life force or a symbol of this
  • Noa safe from tapu (see below), non-sacred, not tabooed
  • Raupatu confiscate, take by force
  • Rohe boundary, a territory (either geographical or spiritual) of an iwi or hapū
  • Taihoa to delay, to wait, to hold off to allow maturation of plans, etc.
  • Tapu sacred, not to be touched, to be avoided because sacred, taboo
  • Tiaki to care for, look after, guard (kaitiaki: guardian, trustee)
  • Taonga treasured possession or cultural item, anything precious
  • Tino rangatiratanga the highest possible independent chiefly authority, paramount authority, sometimes used for sovereignty
  • Tūrangawaewae a place to stand, a place to belong to, a seat or location of identity
  • Wehi to be held in awe
  • Whakapapa genealogy, to recite genealogy, to establish kin connections
  • Whenua land, homeland, country (also afterbirth, placenta)

People and their groups

  • Ariki male or female of high inherited rank from senior line of descent
  • Hapū clan, tribe, independent section of a people (modern usage – sub-tribe); pregnant
  • Iwi people, nation (modern usage – tribe); bones
  • Kaumātua elder or elders, senior people in a kin group
  • Ngāi Tātou a term for everyone present – ‘we all’
  • Pākehā this word is not an insult; its derivation is obscure; it is the Māori word for people living in New Zealand of British/European origin; originally it would not have included, for example, Dalmatians, Italians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese
  • Rangatira person of chiefly rank, boss, owner
  • Tama son, young man, youth
  • Tamāhine daughter
  • Tamaiti one child
  • Tamariki children
  • Tāne man/men, husband(s)
  • Teina/taina junior relative, younger brother of a brother, younger sister of a sister
  • Tipuna/tupuna ancestor
  • Tuahine sister of a man
  • Tuakana senior relative, older brother of a brother, older sister of a sister
  • Tungāne brother of a sister
  • Wahine woman, wife (wāhine: women, wives)
  • Waka canoe, canoe group (all the iwi and hapū descended from the crew of a founding waka)
  • Whāngai fostered or adopted child, young person
  • Whānau extended or non-nuclear family; to be born
  • Whanaunga kin, relatives

Components of place names

Terms for geographical features, such as hills, rivers, cliffs, streams, mountains, the coast; and adjectives describing them, such as small, big, little and long, are found in many place names. Here is a list so you can recognise them:

  • Au current
  • Awa river
  • Iti small, little
  • Kai in a place name, this signifies a place where a particular food source was plentiful, e.g., Kaikōura, the place where crayfish (kōura) abounded and were eaten
  • Manga stream
  • Mānia plain
  • Maunga mountain
  • Moana sea, or large inland ‘sea’, e.g., Taupō
  • Motu island
  • Nui large, big
  • Ō or o means ‘of’ (so does a, ā); many names begin with Ō, meaning the place of so-and-so, e.g., Ōkahukura, Ōkiwi, Ōhau
  • One sand, earth
  • Pae ridge, range
  • Papa flat
  • Poto short
  • Puke hill
  • Roa long
  • Roto lake; inside
  • Tai coast, tide
  • Wai water
  • Whanga harbour, bay

Greetings

Body parts

See also: 365 useful Māori words and phrases

A note on pronunciation

The following English equivalents are a rough guide to pronouncing vowels in Māori:

      • a as in far
      • e as in desk and the first ‘e’ in where; it should be short and sharp
      • i as in fee, me, see
      • o as in awe (not ‘oh!’)
      • u as in sue, boot

There are fewer consonants, and only a few are different from English:

      • r should not be rolled. It is pronounced quite close to the sound of ‘l’ in English, with the tongue near the front of the mouth.
      • t is pronounced more like ‘d’ than ‘t’, with the tip of the tongue slightly further back from the teeth
      • wh counts as a consonant; the standard modern pronunciation is close to the ‘f’ sound. In some districts it is more like an ‘h’; in others more like a ‘w’ without the ‘h’; in others again more like the old aspirated English pronunciation of ‘wh’ (‘huence’ for whence)
      • ng counts as a consonant and is pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘singer’. It is not pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘finger’, i.e., Whāngārei is pronounced Far-n(g)ah-ray (not Fong-gah-ray); Tauranga is pronounced Tow- (to rhyme with sew) rah-n(g)ah (not Tow-rang-gah).

The macron – a little line above some vowels – indicates vowel length. Some words spelled the same have different meanings according to their vowel length. For example, anā means ‘here is’ or ‘behold’: Anā te tangata! (Here is the man!) Ana, with no macron, means a cave. Some writers of modern Māori double the vowel instead of using macrons when indicating a long vowel; the first example would be Anaa te tangata!

Using te reo in email (and snail mail)

This is a guide to appropriate email greetings and sign-offs in te reo Māori.

We encourage you to add other phrases you have received – or any questions you have – as community contributions below this post; or email us at info@nzhistory.net.nz.

Generic greetings suitable for most occasions

      • Formal for one person (where in English you might use ‘Dear’): Tēnā koe
      • Informal: Kia ora

When addressing two people

      • Formal: Tēnā kōrua
      • Informal: Kia ora kōrua

When addressing more than two people

      • Formal: Tēnā koutou
      • Informal: Kia ora koutou

Generic sign-offs suitable for most occasions

Formal:

      • Nāku (noa), nā  [your name] = yours sincerely [your name]  from one person
      • Nā māua (noa), nā  [your names] = yours sincerely [your names] - from two people
      • Nā mātou (noa), nā  [your names or group name] = yours sincerely [your names or group name] - from more than two people

Adding ‘noa’ in the above examples adds a sense of humility - e.g. ‘Nāku, nā’ is ‘From [your name]’,  whereas ‘Nāku noa, nā’ is more like ‘It’s just [your name]’

Informal:

      •  Hei konā mai (or just Hei konā)

Other greetings and sign-offs

Please provide more examples from emails you have received as community contributions at the bottom of this page; or email us at info@nzhistory.net.nz

      • In the morning, an informal greeting could be: Mōrena (good morning - an alternative is ‘Ata mārie’ )
      • Kia ora e hoa (informal greeting to a friend)
      • If someone greets you with: Tēnā koutou e hoa mā
        An appropriate response would be: Tēnā koe, e hoa (or, less formally, Kia ora e hoa).
      • The sign off: Noho ora mai rā, nā … is: Look after yourself, from …

For Christmas:

    • Meri Kirihimete - Merry Christmas
    • Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou - Season’s greetings for Christmas and the New Year
    • Meri Kirihimete ki a koe/kōrua/koutou - Merry Christmas to you (1 person) / you (2 people) / you (3 or more people)
    • Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete ki a koe/kōrua/koutou - Greetings of the Christmas season to you  (1 person) / you (2 people) / you (3 or more people).
How to cite this page

'100 Māori words every New Zealander should know', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Dec-2016

Community contributions

191 comments have been posted about 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know

What do you know?

PTMKSN

Posted: 04 Oct 2011

Maori is pronounced Maori. Mao-ri. Maari sounds stupid, and yeah, all my nanas/koros/uncles/aunties use Maori. I've known how to speak Maori since birth, and have never called myself a "Maari". Whoever started that trends needs to fix himself, or maybe, as someone asked it might be another iwi's more modern version of saying Maori. On the East Coast, I've only ever heard Maori call themselves Maori. Pakeha sometimes use Maari, but only because I think it's hard for them to pronounce it properly.

Peter Rodda

Posted: 19 Sep 2011

Kia ora Keri. Like you I'm confused about the current trend by many prominent moari, and prominent pakeha for that matter, to pronouce maori as maari. I've often wondered if it's a dialectic difference?

Keri

Posted: 09 Aug 2011

The kaumatua who gave me a few te reo lessons made some points that are here but a couple of things differ and I would like an opinion on them. First he maintained that he was not a Scotsman so did not roll the "R" and I note that here despite so many experts stating the opposite. Secondly, your pronunciation of kia ora appears to, my ear at least, to omit the letter "a" His pronunciation was more a ki-ao-ra as opposed to ki ora. Thirdly, I find it rather disconcerting to hear prominent māori saying something akin to "maari" when now the letter "o" appears to be omitted. As I am a mere student I would value opinion on these points.

Matt

Posted: 25 Jul 2011

Can someone tell me if this is true: "In Maori names, the prefix Te is a respectful addition/honorific title granted to those who have earned the honour, not unlike Sir or a military rank."

Pania

Posted: 12 Jul 2011

I just want to reply to the comment about finding a Maori version of the [Australian] national anthem. I don't think thats cool at all that you ask for one. That's overstepping cultural boundaries no end. What if the Indians asked to have all of our anthems in Indian cos they are one of the largest minority groups in NZ and have very right to be included? I don't think the recpricol agreement includes this. It would also be a HUMONGOUS slap in the face of native Aboriginies as they do not have an anthem recognised in their language. it's more like all you Maori come home if you need to get your Maoriness on. And to not to expect to have it handed over the ocean and contaminated. Sorry Hemi I soo don't see the merit in your patai and feel hard out for our whanaunga over the ditch who don't even have kura. Let's try and put our energies in to helping them reviatalise the tikanga and reo:)

admin

Posted: 08 Jul 2011

Kia ora Rosco - you should be able to print this from your browser ok - let me know if it doesn't work though
Ngā mihi Jamie Mackay

Rosco

Posted: 06 Jul 2011

Great job - is there a printable list?

admin

Posted: 05 Jul 2011

Kia ora Chris, thanks for your feedback.
As you indicate, it is difficult to chose what to include and leave out. Did you also see that we have recently added another 365 words?
These include some of your suggested additions, though I like your idea about adding some of the words now widely used on National Radio and elsewhere. Getting the sound files organised will take a bit of work, but we can probably add these as text for now anyway. Ngā mihi, Jamie Mackay

ChrisF

Posted: 04 Jul 2011

What a great idea to compile a list of 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know! Congratulations on putting this together. Of course, everyone will have different ideas about which words should be on this list. Here, for what they are worth, are my reactions to your choices. I couldn't see the point of including most of the body parts. Do you really think that every kiwi should know the Maori for knee or testicles? Also unsure about teina/tuakanga/tuahine/tungāne (though I do think it's useful to know that Māori distinguish between older and younger siblings/cousins of the same sex). Surprising omissions: matariki, karakia, paepae, ka kite, kia kaha, kuia, koro, hikoi, Aotearoa, Te Ika-a-Māui, Te Wai Pounamu, some numbers (tahi, rua, toru, whā, perhaps) Some words I hear from time to time on National Radio (so perhaps they should be on your list?): whakatauki, tikanga, kaupapa

Mark GIlbert

Posted: 04 Jul 2011

This is great. I'd pay $20 for a nicely designed and printed poster of common words so I could stick it up on a wall in my house. If you do this or know someone who does it I'd really appreciate a link. If you don't do it then you should consider it. Thanks very much, Mark

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