Māori loans projects

Kiwi, Māori or Pākehā?


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A short list of common Māori loanwords you need to know

Here are some words and phrases commonly used in NZE that originate from Māori.

This list is divided into two sections: general words/phrases, and flora and fauna. Definitions are obtained from the online Māori dictionary. For further loanwords examples, see the Wikipedia page.

General Words and Phrases

Māori loan English Translation Māori loan English Translation
Pākehā English, foreign, European, exotic - introduced from or originating in a foreign country; also used to describe New Zealanders of European descent Kia Kaha! be strong, get stuck in, keep going
Haere Mai (interjection) Come here! Welcome! - a greeting Marae (noun) courtyard - the open area in front of the wharenui, where formal greetings and discussions take place. Often also includes the buildings around the marae
Haere Rā (interjection) goodbye (said to someone leaving), farewell! bye, bye-bye Pounamu (noun) NZ greenstone, nephrite, jade
Iwi (noun) extended kinship group, tribe, nation, people, nationality, race - often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor and associated with a distinct territory Tapu (stative) be sacred, prohibited, restricted, set apart, forbidden, under atua protection. May also be adapted to mean "holy" in a christian context
Kai (noun) food, meal Waiata (verb) (-hia,-tia) to sing, or (noun) a song, chant, psalm
Kai Moana (noun) seafood, shellfish Waka (noun) canoe, vehicle, conveyance, spirit medium, medium (of an atua)
Ka Pai Good/Well done Whānau (noun) extended family, family group, a familiar term of address to a number of people; in the modern context the term is used to include friends who may not have any kinship ties to other members
Haka (noun) performance of the haka, posture dance - vigorous dances with actions and rhythmically shouted words; a general term for several types of such dances Whare (noun) house, building, residence, dwelling, shed, hut, habitation
Hāngī (noun) earth oven - earth oven to cook food with steam and heat from heated stones Wairua (noun) spirit, soul

Common Flora and Fauna Terms

Māori loan English Translation Māori loan English Translation
Kākā (noun) Nestor meridionalis - large native forest parrot with olive-brown and dull green upperparts and crimson underpart Pāua (noun) abalone, sea ear, Haliotis spp. - edible molluscs of rocky shores that have flattened, ear-shaped shells with a row of small holes for breathing
Kākāpō (noun) ground parrot, Strigops habroptilus - rare, large, green endemic parrot that is nocturnal and flightless; now found only on islands off Stewart Island Kina (noun) sea egg, common sea urchin, Evechinus chloroticus - a marine echinoderm which has a spherical or flattened shell covered in mobile spines with a mouth on the underside
Kea (noun) mountain parrot, Nestor notabilis - intelligent, large, bold endemic parrot, olive-green with scarlet underwings that lives mainly in the alpine regions of the South Island) Huhu (noun) huhu grub, Prionoplus reticularis - an edible grub found in decayed wood
Kererū (noun) New Zealand pigeon, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae - a large green, copper and white native bush pigeon Mako (noun) shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus - a large, fast-moving oceanic shark with deep blue back and white underparts
Kiwi (noun) Apteryx mantelli and Apteryx australis - flightless, nocturnal endemic birds with hair-like feathers and a long bill with sensitive nostrils at the tip; Kiwi is also used to refer to New Zealanders in general Kūmara (noun) sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas
Moa (noun) large extinct flightless birds of nine subspecies endemic to Aotearoa/New Zealand Kauri (noun) Agathis australis - largest forest tree but found only in the northern North Island, it has a large trunk and small, oblong, leathery leaves
Pūkeko (noun) Porphyrio porphyrio - a deep blue-coloured bird with a black head and upperparts, a white undertail and a scarlet bill that inhabits wetlands, estuaries and damp pasture areas Kōwhai (noun) Native trees of various species including Sophora microphylla and Sophora tetraptera - small-leaved native trees common along riverbanks and forest margins
Tūī (noun) the parson bird, Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae - a songbird that imitates other birds' calls and has glossy-black plumage and two white tufts at the throat Pōhutukawa (noun) New Zealand Christmas tree, Metrosideros excelsa and Metrosideros kermadecensis - trees found in coastal areas which bear large, red flowers about Christmas time
Tuatara (noun) Sphenodon punctatus - an endemic reptile with baggy skin and spines down the back Ponga (noun) silver tree fern, Cyathea dealbata - tall, native tree-fern with prominent, peg-like frond bases on the trunk and having green fronds above and silver-white beneath; a popular NZ icon
Wētā (noun) large insects of various species found in trees and caves; they are active at night and all Aotearoa/New Zealand species are wingless Rimu (noun) red pine, Dacrydium cupressinum - a tall coniferous tree with dark brown flaking bark, scale-like prickly leaves and gracefully weeping branches

This page was written by Matt Bowden.
The site is maintained by Andreea S. Calude (University of Waikato, NZ).