Travelling to New Zealand? Here Are 5 Fun Facts & 15 Māori Phrases You Should Know! (2022)

As the trans-Tasman bubble opened earlier this month, the world witnessed one of the most touching COVID-19 reunions to date. Painted in bold, white letters across Wellington Airport’s runway, a sign that read “Welcome Whānau” was the simple yet heartwarming spectacle that made waves on social media — and even earned a spot on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Facebook page.

Travelling to New Zealand? Here Are 5 Fun Facts & 15 Māori Phrases You Should Know! (1)

There are many useful Māori phrases and basic greetings we’ll learn today, but whānau is a Māori word that speaks of love and home. In English, it means family. | Image credit: Tourism New Zealand Official Facebook Page

Whānau is the Māori word for “family”, and that alone strongly embodied the warm welcome that New Zealanders prepared for their Australian neighbours. Paired with reunion photos that surfaced online, New Zealand inspired weary souls all over and gave stranded travellers the dose of hope they needed amid prevailing global lockdowns.

Also read: New Zealand Finally Welcomes Back Their Australian Neighbours!

Now that New Zealand and Australia are inching closer to a ‘new normalcy’, we figured it’s the best time to prepare for our future trips to New Zealand from home. Let’s start with a few useful Māori phrases and basic greetings, shall we? But first, a few interesting trivia to pique your interest even more!

Fun facts about Māori

Travelling to New Zealand? Here Are 5 Fun Facts & 15 Māori Phrases You Should Know! (2)

The traditional Māori hongi or ceremonial touching of noses. | Image credit: MollyNZ via Canva Pro

(Video) New Zealand: Maori - Travel Kids in Oceania

Māori, the people and the language

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand or, as the Māori’s call their motherland, Aoetoera. Their mother tongue, which is one of the three official languages of New Zealand, is also called Māori (or Te Reo Māori; in English, te reo means “the language”). The other two are English and New Zealand Sign Language, in case you were curious.

Although it’s considered a cultural treasure, Māori is now only spoken by about 4% of New Zealand’s total population. That said, the country has launched educational, cultural, and tourism programs that aim to protect and promote all facets of Māori.

Some Māori tribes welcome visiting tribes with offerings & haka

There are several Māori tribes across New Zealand — each with their own versions of their general customs, beliefs, traditions. But one that is common among all tribes is the haka, a ceremonial dance performed usually by the tribes’ warriors.

While the haka was commonly done before battle as a show of strength and solidarity among tribesmen, it is also performed in times of peace. When tribes meet, a haka is equivalent to a warm welcome that pays its respect to tribe members. At weddings and other social gatherings, the haka symbolises reverence, trust, and mutual respect.

In some Māori tribes, visiting tribes were traditionally offered a symbolic gift upon arrival; if the gift is accepted, then that meant the unexpected guests came in peace. Think a welcome gift, only done in true Māori fashion, which often meant an elaborate and meaningful ceremony before tribe leaders.

Māori men took great pride in caring for their tribe’s female members

Māori men did not only defend their tribes from potential threats. They were also known to look out for their female tribe members with great care. Bianca Ransom, founder of and award-winning Māori-centric travel agency called Potiki Adventures, offered a glimpse into this fascinating dynamic during her 2015 TEDx Talk.

Ransom recounts the day she learned that traditionally, Māori women were not allowed to step into the ocean while menstruating. During this time, it was the Māori men’s role to carry women to land from the sea, should they be travelling. Māori men would treat this belief (and the women) with utmost respect, that not a single toe would ever touch the ocean’s waters.

Māori, in general, have a strong affinity with the natural world

The Māori deeply roots their notions of respect and reverence to mana, a concept that revolves around equality. Because of individual mana, everyone is equal. Mana, in a way, is knowing who you truly are by knowing what makes you you. These qualities always find a way to focus on your role in relation to the natural world — something that Māori deem sacred.

The hongi, a traditional Māori greeting

Perhaps what paints a clearer picture of how truly warm and affectionate Māori are is the hongi, a traditional Māori greeting that lets two people lightly touch each other’s noses and foreheads. While we can try to describe exactly how the haka and the hongi go hand in hand when welcoming honoured guests, we suggest watching this video that shows Prince Harry and Meghan Markle being treated to an authentic Māori welcome.

Basic Māori greetings & useful Māori phrases

Travelling to New Zealand? Here Are 5 Fun Facts & 15 Māori Phrases You Should Know! (3)

Image credit: MGillingham via Canva Pro

Speaking of a warm Māori welcome, don’t you think it’s a good idea to learn a few basic Māori greetings and useful Māori phrases for your next trip to New Zealand? Here are a few that will surely make locals smile from ear to ear!

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1. Kia ora

[kee-yoh-rah]

This is the most common (and easiest) way of saying hello! When you greet someone “Kia ora!”, you’re also wishing them well. Interestingly enough, this is also a way of saying, “Thank you!”

2. Tēnā koe

[teh-nah-ko-eh]

In English: “Hello,” but more formal. Usually uttered directly to just one other person.

3. Tēnā koutou katoa

[teh-nah kaw-taw kah-toh-wah]

In English: “Hello, everyone”. This is usually said to three or more people.

4. Ka kite anō

[kah kee-teh ah-noh]

In English: “See you later!” It’s a casual way of saying, “Til we meet again.”

5. Haere rā

[hi-ree rah]

In English: “Goodbye!”

6. Kei te pēhea koe?

[kei teh pi-yah koi]

In English, “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” It’s a nice way to break the ice.

7. Kei te pai

[kei teh pie]

The usual answer to “Kei te pēhea koe?” It means “Good!”

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8. Tino pai

[tee-noh pie]

This is what you say if you’re asked Kei te pēhea koe?” and are feeling “very good.”

9. Morena

[moh-reh-nah]

In English: “Good morning.” Another way of saying this is, “Ata mārie [ah-tah mah-ree-yeh].”

10. Ahiai mārie

[ah-hee-yah-eeh mah-ree-yeh]

In English: “Good afternoon.”

11. Pō mārie

[poh mah-ree-yeh]

A more modern, casual way of saying, “Good evening.”

12. Harikoa

[hah-ree-koh-ah]

In English: “Cheers!” It’s another way of saying, “Be happy.”

13. Kia mākona

[kee-yah mah-koh-nah]

The Māori equivalent of the French expression, “Bon appétit!” That means “eat well” or “happy eating,” so it is said before digging into a hearty meal.

14. Ko (your name here) ahau

[koh (your name here) ah-hoh]

This literally means, “I am (your name here)”. For example: If I would like to introduce myself to a Māori speaker, I would say, “Ko Alyosha ahau.”

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15. Haere Mai

[hi-reh-mai]

In English: “Welcome!” If you see this on any sign in Aoetoera, that simply means that they’re inviting you to enter.

So, how about it? Can you picture yourself in New Zealand yet? Try saying these basic Māori greetings and useful Māori phrases at home! Have any favourite Māori phrases to share? Let us know in the comments section. Good luck and kia ora!

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About Author

Alyosha Robillos

In Russia, Alyosha is a boy's name popularised by literary greats Dostoevsky and Tolstoy—but this particular Alyosha is neither Russian nor a boy. She is a writer from the Philippines who loves exploring the world as much as she likes staying at home. Her life's mission is to pet every friendly critter there is. When she isn't busy doing that, she sniffs out stories and scribbles away on the backs of old receipts. She is an advocate of many things: culture and heritage, the environment, skincare and snacking, to name a few. She will work for lifetime supplies of french fries and coffee. Or yogurt. Or cheese, preferably Brie.

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FAQs

What is the most useful Māori phrase? ›

Kia ora is the easiest and most useful Māori phrase you can deploy to impress the Kiwis around you. Mostly used as a greeting, it can also be used to thank someone for a kind deed. Examples: “Kia ora Tony, how are you?”

What are examples of Māori phrases? ›

Useful Maori Words & Phrases
  • Kia ora — Hello.
  • Kia ora tatou — Hello everyone.
  • Tena koe — Greetings to you (said to one person)
  • Tena koutou — Greeting to you all.
  • Haere mai — Welcome.
  • Nau mai — Welcome.
  • Kei te pehea koe? — How's it going?
  • Kei te pai — Good.

What are 5 Māori words every New Zealander should know? ›

50 Māori words every New Zealander should know
  • Here are the 50 Māori words every New Zealander should know. ...
  • aroha (love)
  • awa (river)
  • haka (generic term for Māori dance. )
  • hangi (traditional feast prepared in earth oven)
  • hapu (clan, sub-tribe; to be born )
  • hīkoi (walk)
  • hui (gathering, meeting)

What's the longest Māori word? ›

It's Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. This 1,000-foot hill near the township Porangahau holds the Guinness World Record for longest place name with 85 characters. Locals call it Taumata or Taumata Hill.

How do you say 20 in Māori? ›

Nineteen = Tekau mā iwa. Twenty = Rua Tekau.

What is Māori for Hello? ›

Hello. Kia ora - Hello. Morena - Good morning. Tēnā koe - Hello (more formal than kia ora) Kia ora kōrua - Hello to two people.

Is kiwi a Māori word? ›

Spelling of the word Kiwi, when used to describe the people, is often capitalised. The bird's name is spelled with a lower-case k and, being a word of Māori origin, normally stays as kiwi when pluralised. As an English word, the nickname normally takes the plural form Kiwis.

How do you say hello in NZ? ›

Kia ora” (Key-or-rah) is an informal greeting for “hello” and “thank you”, and can also be a form of acknowledgement.

What's a cool random fact? ›

Fun Facts and Trivia
  • It is impossible for most people to lick their own elbow. ...
  • A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.
  • A shrimp's heart is in its head.
  • It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

What is New Zealand known for? ›

A small island nation home to around 4.5 million people located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is famous for its national rugby team, its indigenous Maori culture and its picturesque landscape. If you're an international student considering studying abroad, New Zealand may be a long way from home.

What is the nickname of New Zealand? ›

New Zealand – Land of the Long White Cloud/Middle Earth

The Kiwis across the ditch have picked up not just one, but two nicknames.

Why are New Zealanders called Kiwis? ›

Why are New Zealanders called Kiwis? The name 'kiwi' comes from the curious little flightless bird that is unique to New Zealand. Māori people have always held the kiwi bird in high regard. Their feathers were used to make 'kahu kiwi', valuable cloaks worn by tribal chiefs.

What is New Zealand known for food? ›

Bacon and egg, steak and cheese and potato-top pies are Kiwi classics. However, salmon and bacon(opens in new window), butter chicken, bacon and egg, lamb and mint and venison pies are award-winners at the annual New Zealand pie awards(opens in new window).

What is New Zealand's most popular food? ›

25 Most Popular Foods in New Zealand
  1. Hāngi. You can't leave New Zealand without trying the truly unique experience that is hāngi. ...
  2. Fish and chips. ...
  3. Mince Pies. ...
  4. Roast Lamb. ...
  5. Sausage Sizzle. ...
  6. Green-Lipped Mussels. ...
  7. Kiwi Summer BBQ. ...
  8. Mānuka Honey.
27 Nov 2021

What is the Māori word for New Zealand? ›

Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, though it seems at first to have been used for the North Island only.

What is Noho ora mai? ›

Noho ora mai – All the best.

How many Māori words are there? ›

Most Māori dictionaries contain between 10,000 and 20,000 word entries. If every Māori word that ever appeared in print was counted the number may reach 100,000. As with any major English dictionary, many words would not be known by fluent speakers.

What is the meaning of Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu? ›

Near Porangahau in Hawke's Bay is an unassuming hill known as "Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu", which translates into English as "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'landeater', ...

How do you pronounce Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu? ›

American Pronunciation Guide - YouTube

What is the longest name? ›

The longest personal name is 747 characters long, and belongs to Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff Sr.

How do you say 17 in Māori? ›

Seventeen = Tekau mā whitu.

How do you say 26 in Māori? ›

24." rua " two; “brace” understood). 26." toru " three "). 25." wha " four "). 30." rima " five ").

How do you say 100 in Māori? ›

Maori Numbers: Counting from 100-1000 - YouTube

Why do Māori say Tena koutou 3 times? ›

As well as being used as a greeting, kia ora is also a general expression of appreciation. Tēnā koe (to one person), tēnā kōrua (to two people), or tēnā koutou (to three or more people) also means thank you in Māori.

How do you say basic mihi? ›

How to Say a Maori Mihi (greeting/introduction) - YouTube

How do I say my name in Māori? ›

What's your name? - Learn Māori - YouTube

What do Māori call themselves? ›

The Māori used the term Māori to describe themselves in a pan-tribal sense. Māori people often use the term tangata whenua (literally, "people of the land") to identify in a way that expresses their relationship with a particular area of land; a tribe may be the tangata whenua in one area, but not in another.

What are white Kiwis called? ›

The Word Pakeha. Pakeha, which is a Maori term for the white inhabitants of New Zealand, was in vogue even prior to 1815. Its original meaning and origin are obscure, but the following are possible origins, the first being the most probable: From pakepakeha: imaginary beings resembling men.

What is the Maori language called? ›

The Māori language is known as te reo Māori or simply te reo (the language). It is the language of the Māori people of New Zealand. Te reo Māori is an official language in New Zealand, along with New Zealand Sign Language. It was made official in 1987.

How do kiwis say goodbye? ›

Kia ora – hello, goodbye, thank you.

How do you say beautiful in NZ? ›

Ataahua. Another girl's name that literally means 'beautiful' in Māori. Pronounce it as ah-taah-hoo-a.

How do kiwis say thank you? ›

Chur. The meaning of chur is essentially thank you. You can use this classic Kiwi slang to show gratitude or appreciation.

What is NZ best known for? ›

A small island nation home to around 4.5 million people located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is famous for its national rugby team, its indigenous Maori culture and its picturesque landscape. If you're an international student considering studying abroad, New Zealand may be a long way from home.

What is unique to New Zealand? ›

New Zealand is one of the most gorgeous countries on earth, and even with its modest size, it packs a lot of history, culture, and attractions for us to experience. New Zealand is known for its stunning national parks, dynamic Māori culture, incredible hiking trails, and world-class skiing and surfing.

What's a fun fact for the day? ›

Fun Facts and Trivia
  • It is impossible for most people to lick their own elbow. ...
  • A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.
  • A shrimp's heart is in its head.
  • It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

What was New Zealand old name? ›

When James Cook arrived in 1769, Nieuw Zeeland was anglicised to New Zealand, as can be seen in his famous 1770 map. Cook renamed Te Moana-o-Raukawa as Cook Strait, and imposed dozens more English place names.

What fruit is famous in NZ? ›

The kiwifruit is perhaps the most famous New Zealand fruit. Also known as the Chinese gooseberry or simply the kiwi, it has a brown fuzzy skin with green or yellow flesh inside.

What is New Zealand known for food? ›

Bacon and egg, steak and cheese and potato-top pies are Kiwi classics. However, salmon and bacon(opens in new window), butter chicken, bacon and egg, lamb and mint and venison pies are award-winners at the annual New Zealand pie awards(opens in new window).

How do you say hello in New Zealand? ›

100% Pure New Zealand: Kia ora, New Zealand

Kia ora can be used to say hello, express gratitude, send love and make a connection. Kia ora is a warm and welcoming greeting you'll hear throughout New Zealand and comes from the indigenous Māori language.

What is New Zealand called? ›

Aotearoa (pronounced [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa] in Māori and /ˌaʊtɛəˈroʊ.ə/ in English; often translated as 'land of the long white cloud') is the current Māori name for New Zealand.

What are 10 random facts? ›

  • "OMG" usage can be traced back to 1917. ...
  • The majority of your brain is fat. ...
  • Stop signs used to be yellow. ...
  • Most wasabi we eat in the U.S. isn't really wasabi. ...
  • Green Eggs and Ham started as a bet. ...
  • Too much water can kill you. ...
  • You might be drinking water that is older than the solar system.

What are good fun facts? ›

60+ Fun Facts About Yourself That You Can Share
  • Your high school superlative. ...
  • The most money you've ever won on a scratch-off or lottery ticket.
  • Your favorite food to eat or your favorite comfort food.
  • Your favorite food to make.
  • Your hometown, especially if it's vastly different from your current location.

Videos

1. Hahana Kids: The truth about New Zealand's Māori language.
(Hahana)
2. NEW ZEALAND! - Mini Fantastic Facts
(JrMojo)
3. HOW TO UNDERSTAND NEW ZEALAND SLANG
(How to DAD)
4. Māori astronomy: Dr. Pauline Harris (TBC)
(Linux.conf.au 2015 -- Auckland, New Zealand)
5. 10 Best Places to Visit in New Zealand
(touropia)
6. The Geology Flannelcast #83 - New Zealand Geology with Matt Sophy
(The Geology Flannelcast)

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