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 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


      • 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 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: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-Sep-2015

Community contributions

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

What do you know?


Posted: 23 Nov 2015

Kia ora Anthony - not specifically, but on our 1000 Maori place names page we have audio of the components that make up most place names. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/1000-maori-place-names Nga mihi, Jamie Mackay


Posted: 19 Nov 2015

This webpage is very useful, thank you so much!

Is there a similar page that gives the pronunciation of Maori place names? (If not, could it be added here?)


Posted: 18 Sep 2015

Kia ora Ian. Hopefully someone more qualified than me will respond, but 'Tēnā koutou' would be appropriate for this situation I think. Note that this is what you would say to an individual, if you want to address the family as a whole you would say 'Tēnā koutou katoa'. Hope this helps, Jamie Mackay


Posted: 17 Sep 2015

At my daughter's wedding, I am wanting to greet my future Son-In-Law's family (who are from NZ), a warm welcome. Do I just greet them with "Tēnā koutou" ?


Posted: 25 Jul 2015

I LOVE that you have done this! THANK YOU. I live outside NZ at present, and this is precious. I am forwarding it to my friends and family, and I really appreciate the time and effort you have gone to, to provide this for us Kiwi's who want it and need it.
Kia Kaha.


Posted: 24 Jul 2015

I thought the Maori word for 'vagina' was 'tore'? When I was in high school there was this girl named Mihi and when her friends would call out to her, they would shout "Mihi-tore!" I asked why and they said it means 'Mihi-vagina'? Is that true? Or was it just a childish school kid joke?


Posted: 24 Jul 2015

Kia ora I have now added 'vagina' to the list. If anyone would like to provide a sound file of this being correctly pronounced please email info@nzhistory.net.nz Ngā mihi Jamie Mackay

Aue Tuhoe

Posted: 20 Jul 2015

Kia ora, Why is Ure on the list but not a kupu for vagina?
Heoi ano, tena koutou.

Ernest Christia...

Posted: 07 Feb 2015

Is Waaka the correct spelling for canoe? (Or Waka?)


Posted: 05 Feb 2015

Kia ora Adelina - no problem at all. Ngā mihi, Jamie Mackay