Live Better
 
 

10 useful Māori words and phrases for travelling in New Zealand

Your essential cheat sheet for speaking like a local.

Kiwi sign on the road to mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro, New Zealand

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Lucky you! Our antipodean neighbour is an amazing country, full of beautiful vistas and welcoming people. There is incredible food to try, delicious wines to sample, and hair-raising experiences (bungy jumping, zip-lining and more) to be had. But there is also a unique culture, influenced heavily by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

One of the biggest ways Māori have informed New Zealand life is through language. Many Māori words and phrases are used frequently by the majority of Kiwis, seamlessly integrated into the dominant English tongue. And while we can’t give you a full rundown of these words and phrases, we can certainly start you on the right path.

The most important Māori saying to grasp en route to New Zealand is ‘kia ora’. Translated exactly, kia ora means ‘be well, or be healthy’, however it is used in common New Zealand English as a substitute for many other phrases, including hello, cheers, and thank you.

Below is a list of other words and phrases you might hear as you travel the North and South Island.

Useful Māori words and phrases

  • Kia ora: Hello (informal); Cheers; Good health; Thank you. (It’s a very important word!)
  • Ae: Yes.
  • Kāore: No.
  • Tēnā / Koa: Please.
  • Haere Mai / Nau Mai: Welcome; Come.
  • Ko wai tōu ingoa? What is your name?
  • Ko [NAME] ahau: My name is…
  • Nō hea koe? Where are you from?
  • Nō Australia ahau: I come from Australia.
  • Hei kona rā: Goodbye (informal.)

Pronunciation

Pronouncing Māori words correctly can be tricky, as some letters have different sound rules to English. The New Zealand Government’s official NZ History site offers the following rough guidelines. There you can also find more information about Māori language and culture, plus other facets of New Zealand life and history.

For vowels:

  • 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

For consonants:

  • 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).

For help translating Māori words and phrases when you’re in New Zealand, visit the Māori Dictionary and download their app. To read more about Māori people and culture, we recommend starting with New Zealand Now.

It’s great to prepare for travel by learning about your destination, but unfortunately you can’t prepare for everything that might happen on a holiday. Protect yourself and your loved ones with comprehensive travel insurance. Get a quote today.

Latest Articles

Wellbeing

Could you have sleep apnoea?

Here's what you need to know about this common disorder.

Read more
Wellbeing

New Zealand: The ultimate travel guide

The land of the long white cloud has something for every kin.

Read more
Wellbeing

Vietnam travel guide

Everything you need to know about travelling Vietnam.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4