Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori - 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


  • 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


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 [email protected].

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


      • 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]’


      •  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 [email protected]

      • 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 13-Oct-2022

Community contributions

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

What do you know?


Posted: 25 Jun 2011

kia ora - I was wondering since we have our anthem in english and maori and since we have a reciprical agreement with austalia what would be the maori translation of the aussi anthem. I haven't found it and think it's only fair that there is one. even for the unofficial one like waltzing matilda or our one ten guitars. Do you have any sugestions?


Posted: 04 Jun 2011

Tēnā Koutou. Could someone please tell me if "Tipu he tamaiti he kāinga hiahiatanga" translates to 'It takes a village to raise a child"? Kai ora.


Posted: 01 Jun 2011

Hi :D I was also wondering what the translation to the song Nuku Te Aio was? I found someone had written the Maori lyrics online so could anyone please translate the song? Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio. Nei te iti o Ngati Raukawa, Te NgatiAwa, To Rangatira E whakamanawa atu nei ki aku rau rangatira Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio. Ka mihi ki nga manaakitanga I uwhia mai ai e koutou. Me wai manawhenua te hohonu Nei te whakahoki atu nei I te hau uuu ko te whakaaro Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio, Nuku te Aio Thanks a lot :D

John Archer

Posted: 31 May 2011

How's this for a translation of Ka Pioioi? Ka pioioi e tohu aroha haukainga (This) hip-swinging shows the love (of your) home-town people. E hoki mai ra kia kite atu i to iwi e. (You've) come back home to see your people. E rotarota ana e katakata ana mai ra. They are waving their hands and laughing (with delight) at your return. Pukana whetero mai i te ihi o matua. (Those) rolling eyes (and) protruding tongues (show) the feelings of the (welcoming) contingent. Kia kite atu ano to atahua ai kanapa ra When I also see your beauty gleaming there pupuhia i e te hau, kapohia aku roimata. caressed by the wind, my tears are snatched away. Ka pioioi he tohu aroha haukainga (This) swaying (dance is) a sign your home-town people's love. Matua can mean an organised group, a company, a contingent, as well as elders. Would that fit better here? And should hau kainga be one word perhaps, "haukainga," "the people of the village," "the locals."


Posted: 25 May 2011

what does "nuku te aio" mean?


Posted: 16 May 2011

Hi there, Does anyone know the translations for Pathway to life? And or peace love and happiness?


Posted: 13 May 2011

The Maori word for learning is "ako"


Posted: 14 Apr 2011

Hello, could someone please tell me the maori word for learing?


Posted: 13 Apr 2011

Does E ai ki etahi, kaore ano toku papa kia pakari. kia a au nei, kua pakari ia make sense?


Posted: 12 Apr 2011

@Danielle "Te Orokohanga" is the beginnings of so depending of the context. E.g. Te orokohanga mai o te ao. The beginning of the world.

@Vaness "E hia ngā kiwi e kitea ana? E wha nga kiwi e kitea ana." Please note it can be said many different ways depending on dialect.

@Msalafaele if you find the song on youtube then email or msg the person who uploaded the file for the true translation. this is my loose translation:
Ka pioio e (I sway or dance)
E hoki...(Return to see your people)
E rotarota...(waving their hands and laughing)
Pukana...(Enlarge your eyes and poke out your tongue to show the prowess off your elders.
Kia kite atu...(So that your beauty will shine and seen)
Pupuhia...(Caressed by the wind)
Kapohia...(Catch my tears)
Ka pioio e....
E tohu aroha hau kainga (Its a sign of home)

@erik not so much i miss you but more I am lonely without you "Kei te mokemoke ahau ki a koe"

@heidi kia ora and tena koe are greetings. kia ora less formal which means be well literally. tena koe is formal as in i acknowledge you. ahienga rio is maybe aheinga reo? language proficeincy.

@duncan "arani nui"

@marg yes

@ruby "kei te hiahia ahau ki te ako i te reo maori"

@cole "kei to taha ahau i nga wa katoa"

@ken "aroha" also means love but to give and to not expect back is aroha