te reo maori

100 words in te reo Māori

These words are grouped according to the following functions and associations:

We have included individual sound files of spoken versions of all these words – just click on the word and it will be spoken! (See also pronunciation notes and te reo for email.)

New: 365 more useful Māori words and phrases

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The marae

  •       Hui
    meeting, conference, gathering

 

  •       Marae
    the area for formal discourse in front of a meeting house; or the whole marae complex, including meeting house, dining hall, forecourt, etc.

 

  •       Haere mai!
    Welcome! Enter!

 

  •       Nau mai!
    Welcome!

 

  •       Tangihanga
    funeral ceremony in which a body is mourned on a marae

 

  •       Tangi
    short (verbal version) for the above; or to cry, to mourn

 

  •       Karanga
    the ceremony of calling to the guests to welcome them onto the marae

 

  •       Manuhiri
    guests, visitors

 

  •       Tangata whenua
    original people belonging to a place, local people, hosts

 

  •       Whaikōrero
    the art and practice of speech making

 

  •       Kaikōrero
    or kaiwhai kōrero speaker (there are many other terms)

 

  •       Haka
    chant with dance for the purpose of challenge (see other references to haka on this site)

 

  •       Waiata
    song or chant which follows a speech

 

  •       Koha
    gift, present (usually money, can be food or precious items, given by guest to hosts)

 

  •       Whare nui
    meeting house; sometimes run together as one word – wharenui

 

  •       Whare whakairo
    carved meeting house

 

  •       Whare kai
    dining hall

 

  •       Whare paku
    lavatory, toilet

 

  •       Whare horoi
    ablution block, bathroom

 

Concepts

  •       Aroha
    compassion, tenderness, sustaining love

 

  •       Ihi
    power, authority, essential force

 

  •       Mana
    authority, power; secondary meaning: reputation, influence

 

  •       Manaakitanga
    respect for hosts or kindness to guests, to entertain, to look after

 

  •       Mauri
    hidden essential life force or a symbol of this

 

  •       Noa
    safe from tapu (see below), non-sacred, not tabooed

 

  •       Raupatu
    confiscate, take by force

 

  •       Rohe
    boundary, a territory (either geographical or spiritual) of an iwi or hapū

 

  •       Taihoa
    to delay, to wait, to hold off to allow maturation of plans, etc.

 

  •       Tapu
    sacred, not to be touched, to be avoided because sacred, taboo

 

  •       Tiaki
    to care for, look after, guard (kaitiaki: guardian, trustee)

 

  •       Taonga
    treasured possession or cultural item, anything precious

 

  •       Tino rangatiratanga
    the highest possible independent chiefly authority, paramount authority, sometimes used for sovereignty

 

  •       Tūrangawaewae
    a place to stand, a place to belong to, a seat or location of identity

 

  •       Wehi
    to be held in awe

 

  •       Whakapapa
    genealogy, to recite genealogy, to establish kin connections

 

  •       Whenua
    land, homeland, country (also afterbirth, placenta)

People and their groups

  •       Ariki
    male or female of high inherited rank from senior line of descent

 

  •       Hapū
    clan, tribe, independent section of a people (modern usage – sub-tribe); pregnant

 

  •       Iwi
    people, nation (modern usage – tribe); bones

 

  •       Kaumātua
    elder or elders, senior people in a kin group

 

  •       Ngāi Tātou
    a term for everyone present – ‘we all’

 

  •       Pākehā
    this word is not an insult; its derivation is obscure; it is the Māori word for people living in New Zealand of British/European origin; originally it would not have included, for example, Dalmatians, Italians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese

 

  •       Rangatira
    person of chiefly rank, boss, owner

 

  •       Tama
    son, young man, youth

 

  •       Tamāhine
    daughter

 

  •       Tamaiti
    one child

 

  •       Tamariki
    children

 

  •       Tāne
    man/men, husband(s)

 

  •       Teina/taina
    junior relative, younger brother of a brother, younger sister of a sister

 

  •       Tipuna/tupuna
    ancestor

 

  •       Tuahine
    sister of a man

 

  •       Tuakana
    senior relative, older brother of a brother, older sister of a sister

 

  •       Tungāne
    brother of a sister

 

  •       Wahine
    woman, wife (wāhine: women, wives)

 

  •       Waka
    canoe, canoe group (all the iwi and hapū descended from the crew of a founding waka)

 

  •       Whāngai
    fostered or adopted child, young person

 

  •       Whānau
    extended or non-nuclear family; to be born

 

  •       Whanaunga
    kin, relatives

Components of place names

Terms for geographical features, such as hills, rivers, cliffs, streams, mountains, the coast; and adjectives describing them, such as small, big, little and long, are found in many place names. Here is a list so you can recognise them:

  •       Au
    current

 

  •       Awa
    river

 

  •       Iti
    small, little

 

  •       Kai
    in a place name, this signifies a place where a particular food source was plentiful, e.g., Kaikōura, the place where crayfish (kōura) abounded and were eaten

 

  •       Manga
    stream

 

  •       Mānia
    plain

 

  •       Maunga
    mountain

 

  •       Moana
    sea, or large inland ‘sea’, e.g., Taupō

 

  •       Motu
    island

 

  •       Nui
    large, big

 

  •       Ō
    or o means ‘of’ (so does a, ā); many names begin with Ō, meaning the place of so-and-so, e.g., Ōkahukura, Ōkiwi, Ōhau

 

  •       One
    sand, earth

 

  •       Pae
    ridge, range

 

  •       Papa
    flat

 

  •       Poto
    short

 

  •       Puke
    hill

 

  •       Roa
    long

 

  •       Roto
    lake; inside

 

  •       Tai
    coast, tide

 

  •       Wai
    water

 

  •       Whanga
    harbour, bay

Greetings

  •       E noho rā
    Goodbye (from a person leaving)

 

  •       Haere rā
    Goodbye (from a person staying)

 

  •       Haere mai
    Welcome! Come!

 

  •       Hei konā rā
    Goodbye (less formal)

 

  •       Kia ora
    Hi! G’day! (general informal greeting)

 

  •       Mōrena
    (Good) morning!

 

  •       Nau mai
    Welcome! Come!

 

  •       Tēnā koe
    formal greeting to one person

 

  •       Tēnā kōrua
    formal greeting to two people

 

  •       Tēnā koutou
    formal greeting to many people

 

  •       Tēnā tātou katoa
    formal inclusive greeting to everybody present, including oneself

Body parts

  •       Arero
    tongue

 

  •       Ihu
    nose

 

  •       Kakī
    neck

 

  •       Kauae
    chin (also kauwae)

 

  •       Kōpū
    womb

 

  •       Māhunga
    (also makawe) hair (always plural, indicated by ngā [the, plural]); also head

 

  •       Manawa
    heart

 

  •       Niho
    teeth

 

  •       Poho
    chest (also uma)

 

  •       Puku
    belly, stomach

 

  •       Raho
    testicles

 

  •       Ringa
    hand, arm

 

  • Tenetene (also tara) vagina

 

  •       Toto
    blood

 

  •       Tou
    anus

 

  •       Turi
    knee (also pona)

 

  •       Tūtae
    excrement, ordure

 

  •       ū
    breast (breast-milk is wai-ū)

 

  •       Upoko
    head

 

  •       Ure
    penis

 

  •       Waewae
    foot/feet, leg/legs

See also: 365 useful Māori words and phrases

A note on pronunciation

The following English equivalents are a rough guide to pronouncing vowels in Māori:

      • a as in far
      • e as in desk and the first ‘e’ in where; it should be short and sharp
      • i as in fee, me, see
      • o as in awe (not ‘oh!’)
      • u as in sue, boot

There are fewer consonants, and only a few are different from English:

      • r should not be rolled. It is pronounced quite close to the sound of ‘l’ in English, with the tongue near the front of the mouth.
      • t is pronounced more like ‘d’ than ‘t’, with the tip of the tongue slightly further back from the teeth
      • wh counts as a consonant; the standard modern pronunciation is close to the ‘f’ sound. In some districts it is more like an ‘h’; in others more like a ‘w’ without the ‘h’; in others again more like the old aspirated English pronunciation of ‘wh’ (‘huence’ for whence)
      • ng counts as a consonant and is pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘singer’. It is not pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘finger’, i.e., Whāngārei is pronounced Far-n(g)ah-ray (not Fong-gah-ray); Tauranga is pronounced Tow- (to rhyme with sew) rah-n(g)ah (not Tow-rang-gah).

The macron – a little line above some vowels – indicates vowel length. Some words spelled the same have different meanings according to their vowel length. For example, anā means ‘here is’ or ‘behold’: Anā te tangata! (Here is the man!) Ana, with no macron, means a cave. Some writers of modern Māori double the vowel instead of using macrons when indicating a long vowel; the first example would be Anaa te tangata!

Using te reo in email (and snail mail)

This is a guide to appropriate email greetings and sign-offs in te reo Māori.

We encourage you to add other phrases you have received – or any questions you have – as community contributions below this post; or email us at info@nzhistory.net.nz.

Generic greetings suitable for most occasions

      • Formal for one person (where in English you might use ‘Dear’): Tēnā koe
      • Informal: Kia ora

When addressing two people

      • Formal: Tēnā kōrua
      • Informal: Kia ora kōrua

When addressing more than two people

      • Formal: Tēnā koutou
      • Informal: Kia ora koutou

Generic sign-offs suitable for most occasions

Formal:

      • Nāku (noa), nā  [your name] = yours sincerely [your name]  from one person
      • Nā māua (noa), nā  [your names] = yours sincerely [your names] – from two people
      • Nā mātou (noa), nā  [your names or group name] = yours sincerely [your names or group name] – from more than two people

Adding ‘noa’ in the above examples adds a sense of humility – e.g. ‘Nāku, nā’ is ‘From [your name]’,  whereas ‘Nāku noa, nā’ is more like ‘It’s just [your name]’

Informal:

      •  Hei konā mai (or just Hei konā)

Other greetings and sign-offs

Please provide more examples from emails you have received as community contributions at the bottom of this page; or email us at info@nzhistory.net.nz

      • In the morning, an informal greeting could be: Mōrena (good morning – an alternative is ‘Ata mārie’ )
      • Kia ora e hoa (informal greeting to a friend)
      • If someone greets you with: Tēnā koutou e hoa mā
        An appropriate response would be: Tēnā koe, e hoa (or, less formally, Kia ora e hoa).
      • The sign off: Noho ora mai rā, nā … is: Look after yourself, from …

For Christmas:

    • Meri Kirihimete – Merry Christmas
    • Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou – Season’s greetings for Christmas and the New Year
    • Meri Kirihimete ki a koe/kōrua/koutou – Merry Christmas to you (1 person) / you (2 people) / you (3 or more people)
    • Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete ki a koe/kōrua/koutou – Greetings of the Christmas season to you  (1 person) / you (2 people) / you (3 or more people).

 

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