Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori - Māori Language Week

Page 4 – A Māori word a day

365 useful words and phrases in te reo Māori

These words and phrases have been compiled and recorded by Martin Wikaira. See 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know for more words and a pronunciation guide.

Categories: Holidays and anniversaries; days, months and seasons; the marae; greetings; protocols, roles, emotions and characteristics; families and people; places; numbers; natural world; sport; iwi; government organisations; food and drink; body parts; shops, buildings, rooms, etc.; transport; other useful words and phrases

Holidays and anniversaries

Days, months and seasons

The marae

  • Whakatau – visit
  • Manuhiri – visitor, guest
  • Paepae – speakers’ seats (for both visitors and hosts)
  • Hui – meeting, conference, gathering
  • Marae – complex that includes meeting house, dining hall, forecourt, etc.
  • Tangihanga – funeral ceremony in which a body is mourned on the marae
  • Tangi – shortened version of tangihanga. Also means to cry or to mourn
  • Karanga – the protocol of women calling guests onto the marae
  • Manuhiri – guests at or visitors to the marae
  • Tangata whenua – hosts, local people, ‘people of the land’
  • Kaikōrero – speaker, one who makes a speech
  • Haka – chant with dance for the purpose of challenge
  • Waiata – song or chant which follows a speech; can be a haka
  • Koha – gift, present. Usually money, can be food or precious items, given by guests to hosts
  • Whare nui – meeting house, big house for communal gathering, sleeping house
  • Whare whakairo – carved meeting house
  • Whare kai – dining hall, eating place; often used for meetings
  • Wharepaku – ‘small house’; ablution block, toilets and shower room
  • Whare horoi – bathroom


Protocols, roles, emotions and characteristics

  • Aroha – compassion, tenderness, sustaining love
  • Ihi – power, authority, essential force
  • Mana – authority, power; influence, reputation
  • Mauri – hidden essential life force, or a symbol of this
  • Noa – safe from tapu (see below), non-sacred, not tabooed
  • Tino rangatiratanga – the highest possible independent chiefly authority, paramount authority
  • Whaikōrero – art and practice of speech-making
  • Manaakitanga – respect for hosts or kindness to guests
  • 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 possessions or cultural items; anything precious
  • Raupatu – confiscate, take by force
  • Wehi – to be held in awe

Families and people


  • Taone-nui – city
  • Huarahi – road, highway
  • Waitangi – national celebration of the Treaty of Waitangi; ‘weeping waters’
  • Rohe – boundary, the territory (geographical and/or spiritual) of an iwi or hapū
  • Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand, a place to belong to, a seat or location of identity
  • Whenua – land, homeland, country (also afterbirth, placenta)
  • Te Reinga – point at northern tip of New Zealand
  • Kaitāia – far north town with Dalmatian settlers
  • Paihia – idyllic tourist place in far north, next to Waitangi
  • Hokianga – early Māori explorers used harbour as place to return to
  • Whangārei – city in far north near oil refinery
  • Akarana – Auckland (also Tāmaki Makaurau)
  • Waikato – river and district south of Auckland
  • Tainui – tribal confederation of Waikato people
  • Rangiriri – historic redoubt in Waikato
  • Ngāruawāhia – home of the Tainui King Tūheitia
  • Kirikiriroa – Hamilton
  • Ahuriri – Napier
  • Hauraki – tribe to the east of Waikato
  • Tauranga – Bay of Plenty city, home of Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi te Rangi
  • Rotorua – tourist city with natural hot pools and Māori cultural activities
  • Taupō – town at northern end of large central North Island lake of the same name, which is often pronounced incorrectly
  • Tūrangi – town at south end of Lake Taupō. Home of Ngāti Tūwharetoa.
  • Kāwhia – west coast settlement where the Tainui waka landed
  • Tūranga – Gisborne
  • Heretaunga – Hastings
  • Whakatāne – town in the eastern Bay of Plenty
  • Whanganui – town and river
  • Taranaki – mountain to the west
  • Tongariro – mountain of central North Island
  • Ruapehu – mountain of central North Island
  • Papa-i-oea – Palmerston North
  • Paraparaumu – town in southern North Island; often pronounced incorrectly
  • Te Awa Kairangi – Hutt Valley
  • Te Whanganui a Tara – Wellington
  • Te Moana o Raukawa – Cook Strait
  • Whakatū – Nelson (to stand and make a speech)
  • Waiharakeke – Blenheim (place where flax grows)
  • Kaikōura – town named for its abundant crayfish
  • Ōtautahi – Christchurch; the river Avon
  • Ōtepoti – Dunedin (place situated at a corner)
  • Aoraki – Mt Cook (sky piercer)
  • Te Waipounamu – South Island
  • Rakiura – Stewart Island
  • Te Ara a Kiwa – Foveaux Strait
  • Te Tai Poutini – West Coast of the South Island
  • Wharekauri – Chatham Islands, also known as Rēkohu
  • Manapōuri – lake and hydro scheme in the South Island
  • Wānaka – lake in the South Island
  • Wakatipu – lake in the South Island (place to rebuild tribal strength)
  • Ruapuke – two hills; two prominent features on an island
  • Kaiapoi – to swing food
  • Arahura – path of discovery
  • Waitaki – weeping waters (Ngāi Tahu dialect; cf Waitangi)
  • Moeraki – a place to sleep by day
  • Ōamaru – place of the god Maru
  • Timaru – cabbage-tree shelter
  • Motueka – woodhens in a grove of trees
  • Temuka – a fierce (hot) oven
  • Ōmarama – place of light
  • Hokitika – return directly
  • 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


Natural world



Government organisations

Food and drink

Body parts

Shops, buildings, rooms, etc.


Other useful words and phrases

See also: Kupu o te Rā - a Māori word a day website

How to cite this page

'A Māori word a day', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/maori-language-week/365-maori-words, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2022