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.