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New Zealand Language

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The New Zealand language is a mix of English, Maori words and phrases, Australian slang and a few other bits and pieces thrown in for good measure. Knowing some Maori words will be useful while you’re here, as well as learning how to pronounce some of the place names you come across. Below is a short guide to Te Reo (some Maori pronunciation and some commonly used words), and some New Zealand slang terms you’ll hear on an almost daily basis!

Te Reo – the Maori Language

Any visitor to New Zealand will become immediately aware of the Maori language, as the vast majority of place names are of Maori origin. At first, visitors may be puzzled by the seemingly impossible to pronounce names. In fact, Maori language has a logical structure, and, unlike English, has very consistent rules of pronunciation.

The Maori language consists of five vowel sounds: a e i o u (‘a’ as in ‘car’, ‘e’ as in ‘egg’, ‘i’ like the ‘ee’ in ‘tee’, ‘o’ as in ‘four’, ‘u’ like an ‘o’ in ‘to’). There are eight consonants in Maori similar to those in English — ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘r’, ‘t’, and ‘w’. There are also two different consonants — ‘wh’ and ‘ng’.

Many Maori pronounce the ‘wh’ sound similar to our ‘f’. The ‘ng’ is similar to our own ‘ng’ sound in a word like ‘sing’, except that in the Maori language, words can start with ‘ng’.

Useful Maori Words & Phrases

An attempt by a visitor to use Maori words as greetings will almost certainly elicit a delighted response from both Maori and Pakeha (European) New Zealanders.

  • Kia ora — Hello
  • Kia ora tatou — Hello everyone
  • Tena koe — Greetings to you (said to one person)
  • Tena koutou — Greeting to you all
  • Haere mai — Welcome
  • Nau mai — Welcome
  • Kei te pehea koe? — How’s it going?
  • Kei te pai — Good
  • Tino pai — Really good
  • Haere ra — Farewell
  • Ka kite ano — Until I see you again (Bye)
  • Hei konei ra — See you later

New Zealand Slang

Going to another country it is inevitable there will be differences in every day conversation, so I knew that New Zealand would be no different at all. Kiwi’s, like in any other country, have their own slang and phrases and in all honesty, sometimes it is quite baffling.

I often find myself picking up the odd word and sometimes I even wonder what the hell it is I’ve just said.

So for all you non Kiwi’s, I have compiled a list of the top 5 most common words/phrases and their meanings.

1. Chur Bro – This is a shortened version of the words “Cheers” and “Brother”, so basically a way of saying thank you.

For example: Me: “Pass me the remote” Cam: “Sure” Me: “Chur Bro”

2. Cuzzy Bro – This is an affectionate term used for a person who is a good friend.

For example: Annie: “Who is that?”. Me: “That’s my Cuzzy Bro”

3. Kia Ora – A friendly and traditional Maori greeting for Hello and Thank you. Not really slang, but used all the time.

For example: Me: “Hello Cuzzy Bro”. Ilkin: “Kia Ora” Me: “Have a chip”. Ilkin: “Kia Ora”

4. Aye / Eh – Aye is probably one of the most frequently used words in the Kiwi dictionary. It is pronounced as it looks and often used to turn a statement into a question.

For example: Me: “Did you have a good night?” John: “Yeah, It was pretty good aye?”

5. Sweet As – My personal favourite phrase ever! Mainly used as a form of approval or acknowledgement that things are good.

For example: Mel: ”How you feeling today?” Me: “Sweet as Bro”

New Zealand Slang Terms

The following is a bigger list with some commonly used New Zealand slang terms and their meanings.

Awesome — Fine, Excellent

Bach — A holiday home (also known as a crib in the South Island)

Barbie — Barbecue (also written as BBQ)

Beaut, beauty — Something good or outstanding.

Bro — Term of Address for a male friend or relative

BYO — Bring your Own (normally refers to Alcohol)

Chocka — Full

Choice — Fine, excellent

Chur – Cheers

Cuz — Term of address for a friend or relative

Dairy — Corner Store or Newsagent

Dag — An amusing person, a character

Dork — An idiot or a physically uncoordinated person

Dough — Money

Drongo — A term of abuse, idiot

Dude — A cool or good looking male

Feed — A meal

Flat Tack — At top speed

Greenie — A conservationist

Gumboots — Waterproof rubber boots

Grog — Alcohol

Hard Case — A tough but likeable person, an eccentric person

Head over Heels — Usually describing somebody who is very very happy

Heart of Gold — Describing a person who is very kind

Hook Up — Meet up or join in

Hoon — A noisy person, a lout

Jandals — Rubber sandals or thongs (called flip flops in Britain)

Lolly — The usual word for a confection or sweet

Mate — A friend

Munted — To be broken or distorted

Narley — Cool, good (more commonly spelt as gnarly with a silent ‘g’)

No worries — Common phrase of agreement

On to it — Efficient or Intelligent

Piker — Someone who opts out of an activity

Smoko — Coffee or Tea Break

Snowed Under — Usually has too much work or responsibility

Stoked — Very excited

Sweet As — Great

Ta — Thanks

Togs — Swimming Costume

Under the Weather — Feeling off Colour, unwell, tired

Wicked — Fine, excellent

Wop Wops — Remote or Rural District, the countryside

So next time my Mum phones me and asks me how things are I will tell her, Kia Ora, things are pretty good aye Cuzzy Bro, life is sweet as, Chur. And she will think that I have completely lost the plot and may need professional help but for me and my new Kiwi friends, this is the everyday language and I love it.

31 thoughts on “New Zealand Language

  1. A lot of my kiwi friends have used a word thst sounds like “muldi”…. ive never quizzed them but i presumed it meant same as maori…… anyone help?.

    1. Rick that is how the word “Maori” is correctly pronounced.
      If you read below on the Maori language & vowels, sound them out as described, you will hear yourself pronouncing in the same way.

      “The Maori language consists of five vowel sounds: a e i o u (‘a’ as in ‘car’, ‘e’ as in ‘egg’, ‘i’ like the ‘ee’ in ‘tee’, ‘o’ as in ‘four’, ‘u’ like an ‘o’ in ‘to’).”

    2. The R is rolled so it sounds like Mowdy sort of . If you slow it down it is Ma-or- de – that’s the closed I can write that rolled R.

  2. I heard someone say something like aucacaca and yuella. What does it mean? Also,I know that it isn’t how you spell it. Help

  3. One more you’ll hear, somewhere between slang and Te Reo:
    Tai-ho or tie-ho = Wait, hang on a minute (from Maori taihoa)

  4. What about yeah-nah? – Means both yes and no, entirely contextual depending on the situation

    Also, Chips: can mean, crisps, potato chips, hot chips, french fries and anything else of the fried potato variety.

  5. 1. Rather unfortunate that you pontificate on pronunciation of “Maori” words yet you yourself mispronounce the name. The name is actually “Māori”.
    2. Similarly, the name/word is “pākehā”. Not “pakeha”. You can of course double the vowel, if you prefer not to use the macron.
    3. The use of the collective personal pronoun “our” (as on “our ‘f’ “) is indicative of a mind-set that is quite ‘eurocentric’. A common fault of commentators of Pākehā origin.
    4. Notwithstanding the above shortfalls, your attempt is a fairly good start; you should be encouraged. However try not to be simplistic.
    Ngā mihi.

  6. Clear, concise & informative intro to the lingo for all travellers, Laura! Maybe add “She’ll be right”, “rapt = very pleased” next to stoked, & “bew-dy” alongside beaut(y). And other Fred Dagg or Barry Crump-isms that you come across. Disregard po-faced patronising pedants & keep up the good work. Bewdy.

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