100 Māori words every Kiwi should know

  • 12/09/2017

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori or Māori language week is being celebrated around the country this week.

In celebration of the language, New Zealand History has released a list of 100 Māori words that every New Zealander should know and be comfortable pronouncing.

Former Māori Party leader Pita Sharples told The AM Show New Zealanders are not doing enough to keep the language alive despite the benefits it would bring to the country.

"It would be great for New Zealand, everyone would be happy talking in Māori."

Dr Sharples said making Māori compulsory in school isn't only thing that needs to be done to grow the language, it'd be an indictment on the country if the language isn't grown.

100 Māori words every Kiwi should know

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 korero - 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 hapā

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, and Chines

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

Wāhine - 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

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


E noho rā- Goodbye (from a person leaving)

Haera rā - Goodbye (from a person staying)

Haera mai - Welcome! Come!

Hei konā rā- Goodbye (less formal)

Kia ora - Hi! G’day! (general informal greeting)

Morena- (Good) morning!

Nau mai - Welcome! Come!

Tēnā koe- formal greeting to one person

Tēnā kōrua - formal greeting to two people

Tēnā koutou - formal greeting to many people

Tēnā tātou katoa - formal inclusive greeting to everybody present, including 

Body parts

Arero - tongue

Ihu - nose

Kakī - neck

Kauae - chin (also kauwae)

Kōpū  - womb

Māhunga - (also makawe) hair (always plural, indicated by ngā [the, plural]); also head

Manawa - heart

Niho - teeth

Poho - chest (also uma)

Puku - belly, stomach

Raho - testicles

Ringa - hand, arm

Tenetene (also tara) - vagina

Toto - blood

Tou - anus

Turi - knee (also pona)

Tūtae - excrement, ordure

ū - breast (breast-milk is waiā)

Upoko - head

Ure - penis

Waewae - foot/feet, leg/legs