Basic Maori words for New Zealand visitors

While many European names like North Island, South Island, and White Island lack poetry, you’ll often find Mãori words both colourful and poetic. Try and wrap your mouth around Turangawaewae, for instance, which means place of the heart, and you’ll be glad you learnt a little of the local language. We’ve compiled a few words and phrases to help you get around. Just remember that Mãori is purely a phonetic language and the pronunciation of the vowels is the same as for Italian and French.


Haere mai – Welcome! Haere rã – Farewell, goodbye (from someone staying) Ka kite – See you again, see you soon (informal) Kia ora – Hello, hi, or thanks Mõrena – Good morning (also atamarie) Põmarie – Goodnight or good evening Tenã koe – Greeting to one person (formal) Tenã koutou – Greeting to more than two people (formal)

Visiting the marae

Haka – Chant with dance for the purpose of challenge Hui – Meeting, conference, gathering Karanga – The protocol of women calling guests onto the marae Koha – Gift, present. Usually money, food, or precious items given to hosts Marae – Complex of buildings that include the meeting house, dining hall and forecourt Manuhiri – Guests at the marae Tangata whenua – Hosts, local people, ‘people of the land’ Tangi – Shortened version of tangihanga. Also means to cry or mourn Tangihanga – Funeral ceremony in which a body is mourned on the marae Waiata – Song or chant which follows a speech; can be a haka Whare nui – Meeting house for communal gathering or sleeping house Whare whakairo – Carved meeting house Whare kai – Dining hall, often used for meetings Wharepaku – ‘Small house’ – ablution block, toilets and shower room Whare horoi – Bathroom

Protocols, roles, emotions, and characteristics

Aroha – Compassion, love Ihi – Power, authority Kaitiaki – Guardian, trustee Mana – Authority, influence Mauri – Essential life force Taihoa – To delay or wait Taonga – Treasured items Tapu – Sacred, taboo Tino rangatiratanga – Paramount authority


Waitangi – National celebration of the Treaty of Waitangi (weeping waters) Turangawaewae – A place to belong Whenua – Land, homeland, country (also afterbirth, placenta)

Families and people

Hapu – Clan, tribe or sub-tribe, to be born Iwi – People, nation (modern usage), tribal bones Kaumãtua – Elder of group Pãkehã – People of European origin, non-Mãori Rangatira – Person of chiefly rank, boss, owner Whakapapa – Family tree, genealogy Whãnau – Family


Tahi – One Rua – Two Toru – Three Whã – Four Rima – Five Ono – Six Whitu – Seven Waru – Eight Iwa – Nine Tekau – Ten

Holidays and anniversaries

Hãkari – Feast Hararei – Holiday Koha – Present Matariki – Beginning of Mãori New Year, Pleiades

Natural world

Ãniwaniwa – Rainbow Manga – Stream, creek Mãnia – Plain, stretch of land Maunga – Mountain Moana – Sea, or large inland ‘sea’, e.g. Taupõ Motu – Island Ngaru – Wave (in water) One – Sand, earth at the beach Pae – Ridge, range Papa – Flat Puke - Hill Repo – Swamp Roto – Lake; inside Tomo – Cave or hole in ground Wai – Water Whanga – Harbour, bay Waihirere – Waterfall Roadtrip _article _tile
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Related Posts

8 great movie locations

8 great: movie locations in Aotearoa

The cinematic qualities and unique light of NZ’s landscapes have attracted moviemakers from around the world. Wendy Montrose checks out eight of the most stunning filming locations that are well worth knowing about and adding to your travel bucket list.

Read More »