Māori glossary


Aotearoa: Māori name for New Zealand, meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’
aute: tree whose bark is used to make cloth
haka: ceremonial dance
hāngī: traditional earth oven
hongi: gesture in which two people press noses, share their breath, a greeting
horopito: New Zealand tree with speckled leaves of peppery flavour
huhu: larval form of huhu beetle
huia: a New Zealand wattlebird, resembling the tūī, now extinct
kaikōmako: rubbing stick, hard wood used for starting a fire
kākahu: clothing, woven cloak
kākāpō: flightless green parrot
kapa haka: dance party or group performing traditional dances
karaka: glossy-leafed tree
karakia: incantation or prayer
kauri: New Zealand giant podocarp tree, the most famous named Tanē Mahuta, or Lord of the Forest
kea: New Zealand native parrot, now endangered
kererū: New Zealand wood pigeon
kete: flaxen bag
kia ora: greetings, hello
kiwi: iconic flightless bird, emblem of New Zealand
kōkako: rare silver New Zealand wattlebird, known for its haunting song
kōpīa: fruit of the karaka tree
kōtuku: rare white heron
kōwhai: indigenous New Zealand tree with vibrant yellow flowers
kuia: old woman, grandmother
kūmara: sweet potato
māhoe: soft wood used for lighting fire
mana: respect, prestige
mānuka: New Zealand tea-tree, a plant well known for its medicinal properties
matakite: seer, clairvoyant, soothsayer
Mauao: Māori name for Mount Maunganui, meaning ‘Caught by the morning light’
moa: sometimes known as Te Kura, a large flightless bird, now extinct
Otukapuarangi: Māori name for the Pink Terraces, destroyed in the Tarawera eruption of 1886
pā: village, often fortified
pakiwaitara: ancient legend, story, myth
pikopiko: fern shoot
pipi: a common New Zealand shellfish
pōhutukawa: coastal New Zealand Christmas tree
ponga: giant tree fern, silver fern.
pounamu: greenstone, jade
pūhā: watercress
pūkeko: swamp hen
rimu: endemic New Zealand podocarp tree
taiaha: long handle spear
takahē: flightless bird resembling the pūkeko, endangered
taniwha: monster
taro: starchy vegetable like a potato
Tauiwi: strangers
Taupō: name of the crater lake in central New Zealand, and of the township
Te Hōkioi: Māori name for the Haast eagle, an enormous bird of prey, now extinct
te manu tukutuku, te manu aute: a kite
Te Moana o Raukawa: Māori name for the channel between the North and South islands, later named the Cook Strait.
Te Puia o Whakaari: Māori name for White Island, meaning ‘that which becomes visible.’ The island is also known as ‘the dramatic volcano’
Toa: warrior
Toetoe: giant tussock grass
Tohunga: wise holy man
Toka: rock
tōtara: magnificent podocarp tree
tuatara: endemic reptile
tuatua: shellfish (unlike the pipi, it’s not symmetrical)
tūhua: obsidian, also the name of a small island in the Bay of Plenty
tūī: endemic black bird, white tuft at its throat
waka: canoe
weka: brown flightless bird about the size of a chicken, member of the rail family
wētā: insect
whānau: family
whare: house, hut