Basic Maori words for New Zealand visitors

By: Road Trip

It’s Maori Language Week (27 July - 27 August), so we’ve decided to put up a basic guide to some simple Maori words.

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

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