Ten of our favourite Māori words & their meanings

Kia Ora! Tena koe! The Māori language is pretty integral to what we do here at Tamaki Māori Village – this is the way our people spoke before the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. The country is going through a real revival of Te Reo these days. For a while, there were concerns that the language was dying out, but now more and more people are making the effort to learn it. You’ll learn plenty of Māori words by coming along to our Evening Experience, but to help you get inspired we’ve put together a list of our top ten favourite Māori words & their meanings.

Our guides will be pretty impressed if you remember one or two of these phrases when you visit!

Kia Ora – when visiting New Zealand, you’ll hear this one a lot. It’s used mostly as a relaxed greeting  – ‘hello!’ – but it also means cheers, good luck, or best wishes. It’s nearly as common as ‘hi’ or ‘Gidday’ throughout the country.

Haere rā – nearly as common as ‘Kia ora’, Haere means goodbye, farewell or bye-bye and is said to someone leaving.

Manaakitanga – this is probably our favourite word here at Tamaki Māori Village because it’s at the core of what we do! While it loosely translates to ‘hospitality’; it also means much more than that. It’s all about showing respect and taking good care of others, being generous and making sure guests feel a warm, friendly welcome.

Kai – another important one here at Tamaki! Kai is all about food – it means to eat, to feed oneself, to partake in feasting. And we know all about eating in the Māori culture. Our Hangi feasts, where we cook food in a heated earthen pit, are legendary (you’ll get to indulge in one if you come and visit the village!)

Māori warrior with wild facial expression doing haka, a Māori geothermal hangi meal coming out of the groudn and a woman with a chin ta moko

An example of Pukana, a hangi full of kai coming out of the ground and a chin ta moko

Haka – this has got to be one of the most popular and well-known Māori words in the world! Haka actually means ‘to dance or perform’, and is a general term to describe dances used to welcome visitors or scare enemies. It’s most commonly known as the ceremonial war dance that the All Blacks (and other kiwi sports teams) perform before playing a match.

Pukana – meaning to stare wildly or dilate the eyes, this is done by both men and women during dances or songs to emphasize certain words and their meanings and to add excitement to the performance. See if you can spot the performers using this technique during their dances and songs.

Ta moko – Ever seen a lady with a chin tattoo, or an intricately designed Māori arm band? Ta moko means Māori tattooing designs on the face or body, done in the traditional way. Before the arrival of Europeans, this generally meant using chisels made from albatross bone.

Aroha – a word with a warm, compassionate meaning. Aroha means to love, feel pity for or to emphasize with. It’s a lovely, affectionate, kind phrase.

Whanau – Another phrase common in NZ life. Used mainly to refer to the wider family unit, whanau is also familiar way to address a large number of people. For example, we like to refer to the Tamaki Māori Village team as whanau.

Kare – this is a term used to address a close friend affectionately, but can also be used to attract attention.

We weave Māori words and phrases into our Tamaki Māori Village Evening Experience in a relaxed and fun way. You’ll get to experience many of the words we’ve mentioned above, too – feel the warmth of manaakitanga, learn how to do the haka, spot the technique of pukana during performances, tuck in to some delicious kai before saying haere at the end of the night.