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 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: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 14-Oct-2013

Community contributions


Bk
25 Jul 2014

@Suzanne
Kia ora, that is an interesting observation. The pronunciation on this page was by a speaker of beautiful te reo Tairongo Amoamo, and I suspect he has slowed it down for the listener. He does pronounce it in the way you suggest. However, it is worth noting that even though when it is sped up it sounds like wha/kai/ro a fluent or native speaker will still be saying whaka/iro, but so quickly it will sound similar to wha/kai/ro. But that pronunciation is only an approximation. Proper pronunciation is a quickened form of whaka/iro. Sorry for the long answer.

admin
24 Jul 2014

Hi Lin - check out our Maori Word a Day page for numbers: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/365-maori-words#numbers Regards, Jamie Mackay

Lin Li
23 Jul 2014

Do you mind adding information on the Maori number system to this webpage? I am interested in how to spell or say "3","4","6","7" in Maori. Thanks!

Suzanne
22 Jul 2014

Tēnā koutou,
I find it interesting that the word whakairo is pronounced whaka / iro on this list when many times I hear it said as wha / kai/ ro
Can you clarify which is correct in this case?
Ngā mihi ki a koe

Neville
21 Jul 2014

100 words in te reo Māori, what a brilliant web page it helps a lot if only this could be an APP for smartphones. Well done and thanks

Yvonne Hemara
17 Jun 2014

Ka pai enei kupu tino mohio i nga tangata katoa o te ao!
I'd like to thankyou for your reminder of the one hundred words we should know in Te REO Maori! It just bought back home how much words I really do know and I am so wrapped that I do know so I can go forward and learn more kupu!
E mihinui kia koutou mo tou koutou maumahara kia matou katoa!

Cheyenne
18 May 2014

Hi!
I found this translation : " Ahau te ariki o toku aitua, ahau i te rangatira o toku wairua " for the sentences : I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. Is it correct ? Thanks.

danielle
30 Mar 2014

I have been tryng to learn tereo Maori this is a great start ka pai

TS
28 Mar 2014

Hi, Can you please tell me what "footprints on my heart" translates to in Maori? I have found quite a few different translations and I need to make sure I get the correct one! Thanks heaps

Wiki
13 Mar 2014

How do you say "Make Good Choices"?

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