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

Hear the late Tairongo Amoamo read the complete list: click on arrow to play or

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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!


  •       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



  •       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


  •       Tamaiti
    one child


  •       Tamariki


  •       Tāne
    man/men, husband(s)


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


  •       Tipuna/tupuna


  •       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


  •       Awa


  •       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


  •       Mānia


  •       Maunga


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


  •       Motu


  •       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


  •       Poto


  •       Puke


  •       Roa


  •       Roto
    lake; inside


  •       Tai
    coast, tide


  •       Wai


  •       Whanga
    harbour, bay


  •       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


  •       Ihu


  •       Kakī


  •       Kauae
    chin (also kauwae)


  •       Kōpū


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


  •       Manawa


  •       Niho


  •       Poho
    chest (also uma)


  •       Puku
    belly, stomach


  •       Raho


  •       Ringa
    hand, arm


  • Tenetene (also tara) vagina


  •       Toto


  •       Tou


  •       Turi
    knee (also pona)


  •       Tūtae
    excrement, ordure


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


  •       Upoko


  •       Ure


  •       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


      • 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]’


      •  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).