Māori term kaitiakitanga added to Oxford English Dictionary

The word has been used in English publications since at least 1987.
The word has been used in English publications since at least 1987. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The Māori term kaitiakitanga has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

It comes as part of the dictionary's October update, which has seen nearly 100 new and updated entries with a special focus on words relating to climate and the environment. 

According to the dictionary, kaitiakitanga is a noun which means "guardianship or management, especially of the natural resources of a place or area; environmental stewardship considered as a duty and responsibility of the inhabitants of an area". 

An article on the dictionary's website notes that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2018 proposed kaitiakitanga as the key to combating climate change. In her speech, titled 'Kaitiakitanga: Protecting our planet', Ardern said we all have kaitiakitanga over the world. 

"We all hold this responsibility in our own nations, but the challenge of climate change requires us to look beyond the domestic. Our duty of care is as global as the challenge of climate change."

OED World English Editor Danica Salazar wrote in August that while under international law this is no enforceable legal requirement for nations to protect the natural environment, "this concept of human trusteeship of the Earth, which is so central to the Māori worldview, is increasingly being used by the international community to emphasise the duty of states to collaborate in preserving our ecological systems, in an effort to convince governments to take this duty seriously and accept it as a legal obligation".

Salazar said kaitiakitanga has been "used in English since" at least 1987, "the year in which it appeared in an issue of Soil & Water, a publication of the Soil Conservation and Rivers Control Council of New Zealand."

It's seen an increase in use since the 1980s, with a small dip around 2008, according to Google Books.