Glossary of Maori Terms

Note that in Te Reo Māori plurality is not indicated in the spelling. Plurality is indicated by the use of the plural article (e.g. “ngā”), plural pronouns and the dropping of “t” (e.g. ōku). In some words a macron may indicate a plural (e.g. tāngata, mātua). It is therefore necessary to determine whether singular or plural is intended by the sense of the sentence concerned.

Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) has adopted the use of macrons to assist with pronunciation of words. The use of a macron indicates a long vowel sound. In some instances the macron may also indicate plurality. Please refer to the Kōrero Maori website for assistance with pronunciation of Māori words on this website.

Dialectical conventions apply in Te Reo Māori across different iwi. In Tī Kōuka Whenua we have followed the convention adopted by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. This means that the ‘ng’ form will be used throughout the text except for:

  • Names of people, places, flora and fauna where the ‘k’ is the more commonly used format.
  • All words in glossary will show both the ‘ng’ and ‘k’ forms of the spelling.

A

ana
cave
ariki
first born of a high ranking family, often bestowed with chiefly or priestly status
aruhe
fernroot
atua
god
awa / aua
mullet

H

haka
dance
hākari
gift, present, feast
hapū
sub tribe
harakeke
flax
heke
migration
hīnaki
wicker eel pot
hine
young girl
horopito
pepper tree

I

ika
fish
inaka or inanga
whitebait
iwi
tribe

K

kahikatea
podocarpus excelsum, white pine
kai
food: learn more about kai
kai huanga or kai huaka
eat relations
kai moana
sea food
kāika or kāinga
village
kaikaranga or kaikaraka
caller
kaikōmako
tree traditionally used for firemaking
kaimahi
worker
kākahi
freshwater mussel
kākahu
clothing
kanakana
lamprey
kānuka
leptosperum ericodes, white mānuka
karakia
prayer or chant
kauati
block of wood that is rubbed to produce fire
kaumātua
adult, elder
kaurima
pointed rubbing stick used to produce fire
kāuru
a sugar substance extracted from tī kōuka when cooked in umu (oven)
kawa
protocols, ceremonies
kererū
New Zealand wood pigeon
kete
flax basket
kiekie
a climbing plant
kiore
rat: learn more about kiore
kōau
shag
kokopū
native trout
kono
small basket for cooked food
kōrari
flax stalks, flower of flax plant
kōrau
root vegetable (turnip)
koreke
native quail
korowai
cloak
koukoupara
cockabully
kōura
freshwater crayfish
kōuru
shoot
kōwhaiwhai
painted scroll ornamentation
kūmara
sweet potato
kurī
dog
kurīwarua
dogskin cape

M

mahinga kai or mahika kai
food gathering area: learn more about mahinga kai
mākutu
bewitched, black magic
mana
prestige, power
Māoritanga or Māoritaka
things Māori
marae or marae ātea
enclosed space in front of a house, courtyard, village common
mataī
podocarpus spicatus, a tree
mātaitai
reserve for fish or other foodstuffs obtained from sea or lake
maunga or mauka
mountain
mihimihi
greeting
moa
extinct large bird: learn more about moa
mōkihi
raft
mokopuna
grandchild
muka / whītau
harakeke fibre

N

Ngāti Māmoe or Kāti Māmoe
the main South Island tribe in residence prior to the advance of Ngāi Tahu: learn more about Ngāti Māmoe
Ngāi Tahu or Kāi Tahu
the dominant tribe in the South Island since about 1700: learn more about Ngāi Tahi

O

oho
a species of rail

P

stockaded village
Pākehā
A person of predominantly European descent
pānako
a fern
pāpaku
crab
paraerae
harakeke sandals
pare
carved slab over the door of a whare
pārera
grey duck
pārua
pit, depression, hollow
pātiki
flounder
patupaiarehe
fairy, nymph
pia
gum
pīngao
a now rare native grass used for weaving
pioke
sand shark
pipi
cockle
piupiu
flax garment
pōhata
root vegetable, turnip
poho
bosom or seat of affections often used in a name — Te Poho o Tamatea
poi
ball or swing out
pouhake
ceremonial flagpole
pounamu
greenstone
poupou / pou
carved post
pōwhiri
welcome, ceremony
puna
spring
pūtakitaki or pūtangitangi
paradise shelduck

R

rangatira or rakatira
chief
rangatiratanga or rakatirataka
chieftainship
rangimārie
peace
rāpaki
waist mat
raranga
weaving: learn more about raranga
raupō
native bullrush
reo
language
rito
young shoot
rohe
boundary
roto
lake
rua
pit, hole
rūnanga or rūnaka
council

T

takiwā
district, space
tāniko
ornamental border made from flax or other fibres
tangata or takata
person
tangihanga or takihaka
funeral
taniwha
water monster
taonga or taoka
treasured possession
tapu
sacred
tauranga or tauraka
landing place
tekoteko
carved figure on the gable of the house, figurehead of a canoe
Te Wai Pounamu
South Island (translates as The Greenstone Waters)
Tī kāuru
Name for tī kōuka when it has been processed to extract sugar substance
Tī Kōuka
cabbage tree: learn more about tī kōuka
tihi
summit, top peak, point
tikanga or tikaka
rule, plan, method, custom, habit
tipuna / tīpuna
ancestor / plural form
tohora
whale
tohunga or tohuka
priest
toitū
undisturbed, untouched
tōtara
Podocarpus totara, a forest tree
tūāhu
shrine
tuere
blind eel
tukutuku
ornamental woven lattice work between carvings: learn more about tukutuku
tuna
eel
tupuna / tūpuna
ancestor / plural form
tūrangawaewae or tūrakawaewae
place to stand
tutukiwi
an orchidaceous plant

U

umu
earth oven
upoko
head, upper part
urupā
burial site

W

wāhi tapu
sacred place
waho
outpost
wairua
spirit, spiritual
wai tapu
water burial site
waka
canoe
wānanga or wānaka
forum, workshop
Waitaha
an early tribe living in the South Island prior to Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu
Weka
woodhen
whakairo
carving
whaka or whanga
harbour
whakapapa
genealogy, family tree
whakataukī
proverb, saying
whanau / whānau
family, extended family / plural form
wharariki
phorium cookianum, a kind of New Zealand flax
whāriki
mat
whare
house
wharenui
meeting house
whare kai
dining room
whare karakia
church
whare tipuna
ancestral house, meeting house
whare wānanga / wānaka
house of learning
whenua
land
whītau / muka
harakeke fibre
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