Māori Dictionary
A Maori Dictionary of common words and phrases has been compiled to help with their meanings and pronunciation.
Eske Style would like you to know that the information given below is intended as a general guide only.


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Place Names - Ingoa WÄhi


Sacred fire - this fire was kept burning constantly for the village, on the ground where the school is now located.

Ahuriri - Napier

Named after General Sir Charles James Napier (August 10, 1782 – August 29, 1853) was a British general and Commander-in-Chief in India. He is famous for conquering Sindh province now in present-day Pakistan.

Akarana. - Auckland

Is New Zealand's largest and fastest growing city.


Aka – harbour
roa – long.
Long Harbour.

Aoraki - Mt Cook

South Island Māori called Aoraki because raki is South Island pronunciation of rangi.

Aorangi - Mt Cook

Ao - cloud
rangi - sky.
At 3754 metres, New Zealand’s highest mountain in the Southern Alps of the South Island.

Aotearoa - New Zealand

Land of the long white cloud - as sighted by Kupe's wife Hine-te-Aparangi.
Comparable in size and/or shape to Great Britain, Colorado or Japan, New Zealand has a population of only 4 million - making it one of the world's least crowded countries.

Āwehrika - Africa

One of the seven continents of the World


Eke – embark
tahuna – shoal, sandbank.

Hakaroa - Banks Peninsula

Located in the Canterbury region on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.


Big Roar

Hauraki - Hauraki

Hau - wind
raki - north.
The great gulf east of Auckland.

Hawaiki - Hawaiki

The legendary homeland of the Māori people of Aotearoa / New Zealand.


Burnt place which is apt as the town suffered extensive blazes in 1884, 1888 and 1912. For this reason a large water tank was built close to the town, and is now one of Taranaki’s best-known landmarks.

Heretaunga - Hastings

Situated in the middle of the Heretaunga Plains close to the east coast of the North Islandn New Zealand.

Hokianga-Nui-a-Kupe - Hokianga

The place of Kupe's return.
Hoki - return
anga - face or move in a certain direction.
Hokianga-Nui-A-Kupe – the place of Kupe’s great return.


Horo - Slip
whenua - land.


Hou - feather
hora – scatter over a surface.


Huka - foam.


Hunua – infertile, high country.


Bushy tops of trees

Ingarangi - England

Kingdom occupying together with Wales the southern part of Great Britain


Iri – hanging
mahu – hair
whero – red.
Hanging red hair. On the seaward side of the headland there are masses of Rata trees which are sometimes ablaze with red blooms.

Itari - Italy

Situated in Mediterranean Europe, the capital city being Roma.

Kai Iwi

Kai - food
Iwi - tribe.


Kai – food
aua – herring.
Meal of herring.


Kai - food
kohe - climbing plant.


Kai – food
koura – crayfish.
Meal of crayfish.


Kai - food
taia – neap.
Outer palisade of a pā


Kai – food
waka – canoe.


Ko Te Waewae Kapiti 0 Tara Raua ko Rangitane - a phrase which means The meeting place of the boundaries of Tara and Rangitane. Tara is the son, and Rangitane is the grandson of Whatonga, a M&3275;ori navigator from the Ngai Tara Iwi. Located in the north-west corner of the Wellington region, North Island, New Zealand.


Spirits Bay.
Tōhē lived here at Kapowairua – so named because when Tōhē was about to set off to visit his daughter, he told his people that in the event of his death they should grasp (kapo) his spirit (wairua).

Karangahake Gorge

The alerting call from the other side


To strip off or dig


Native tree of New Zealand.
Kawakawa is a relative of both the Asian plant producing 'black peppercorns' and the Polynesian species from which Kava is made. The New Zealand species has traditionally been used as a medicine to treat a wide range of illnesses. Perhaps it is most efficacious as a tonic, when the leaves are made into a tea by being steeped in hot water. Maori custom is to wear leafy twigs of Kawakawa at a tangi (funeral).


Swift and deep.


Kawe - carry
rau - leaves, hundred.


Taper, dwindle


Dig up repeatedly

Kirikiriroa - Hamilton

Kirikiri – gravel
roa – long.
Long stretches of gravel.

Ko Te Waewae Kapiti O Tara Raua Ko Rangitane' - Kapiti

The place of the boundaries between Tara and Rangitane. Tara is the son and Rangitane is the grandson of Whatonga, a Maori navigator from the Ngai Tara Iwi.
Located in the north- west corner of the Wellington Region North Island New Zealand

Kohanga Reo

Kohanga - nest
Reo - language
Language Nest


Sheltered from the wind


Kororā - blue penguin
reka - sweet, pleasant, agreeable.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Russell was known by its Māori name, Kororāreka. Its name at that time reflected a legend that a wounded chief asked for penguin and on tasting the broth said " Ka reka to korora." (How sweet is the penguin.)It was just one of many small settlements in Pewhairangi/Bay of Islands.


you (more than two)

Kura-tawhiti - Greytown

Greytown owes its existence to the energy and initiative of early settlers in Wellington who were looking for small affordable portions of land to farm and to the assistance of the Governor, Sir George Grey. This was acknowledged by the settlers who named the town Greytown in his honour.

kurī - dog

Lake Onoke

The place of the Earth Worm.
Situated on the Wairarapa Plains from which allowed the Ruamahanga to flow freely directly into the Lake thereby avoiding the floods of days gone by.

Lake Taharoa

Taha – side, edge
roa – long, tall.


Good, beautiful, agreeable

Maitai Bay

Good, beautiful, agreeable

Manawatu - Manawatu

Manawa - heart
tu - standing still.
District in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island New Zealand


Manga - stream
muka - shoot of nikau


Manga - stream
nui - big
o - of
wae - feet


Manga - stream
taipa - to keep shut.


Manga – stream
tini – many.

Mangere - Mangere

Mangere - lazy.
Small township found in the Manukau City District in the North Island of New Zealand.


Mango – shark
nui – big.
Big Shark.


Manu - bird
kau - wade, swim.
Māori oral tradition tells of the portage of the waka (canoe) Tainui from the Tamaki River to the harbour in the west. As the voyagers paddled down the harbour, a Tainui elder was alarmed by what he believed to be human voices. Later the cries were discovered to be birds. The phrase ‘manu kau noa iho’, which translates as 'they were only birds', has remained in condensed form as Manukau Harbour.

Mata-au - Clutha

To the local
āori Clutha was known as Mata-au which means surface current but was finally named Clutha which is Gaelic for Clyde by the Scottish settlers after a river in their native country.


Mata - face, headland, point
kohe - a climbing tree.


Headland, point or extremity.
The point of land on which the pā (fortified village) was built projected like a tongue into the surrounding swamp.


Invisible or Hidden Place because of the fact that the western headland hides Matapouri Bay from the open sea it was once known as Otito, meaning - a lie.
Gloomy, a black teal or a shellfish.

Matauri Bay

Ma - white
tauri – feathers or hair attached to a taiaha.


Maunga - mountain, hill
kiekie - name of a vine.
Hill of a kiekie vine.
One Tree Hill.
Located in Cornwall Park, Auckland New Zealand. One of the largest volcanoes in the Auckland and is a prominent Auckland landmark.


Mt Wellington
Suburb in Auckland


Maunga - mountain
taniwha - monster.


Maunga - mountain
tu - stand, be erect
roto - lake.


Mt Eden.
Suburb of Auckland

Mawhera - Greymouth

Widespread river mouth. Referring to the broad mouth of the Grey River, and is the site of Greymouth.


Motu - island
arohia - reconnaissance.
The island that was spied on.


In full Motuweka.
Motu – clump of trees
weka – wood hen.
The name originally came from Hawaiki.


Motu - island, separated
kaha - boundary, line, lineage
kaha - strong, able, strength


Motu - separated, moved to a distance
o - of, from
pao - strike, break, crack, hatch.

Moturoa - Rabbit Island

Motu - Island
roa - long.
Long Island.


Muri – end
huku – tail.
End of the tail.
So named because it is at the southern end of the South Island.

Ngā Kuri-aWhārei - Katikati

Ngā Pākihi-whatatekateka-a-Waitaha - Canterbury Plains

Ngā Puke-māeroero - Southern Alps


Nga – The
kawau - shag.

Ngamotu - New Plymouth

Is part of the Taranaki region situated on the West Coast of Central North Island, New Zealand.


Nga - the
tea - white, clear.


Overflow, boiling springs


O - the place of
hakune - to be careful.


Oha - dying speech
u - place (of arrival)
a - at the time of

Ohinemuri River

O - The place of
hinemuri - weeping waters.


O - The place of
hungahunga - tow, down, nap of a garment.


O - the place of
hungahunga - tow, down, nap off a garment.


O - the place of
kiato - a receptacle for holding sacred objects


Oma - move quickly
huri - turn to


Oma - Move quickly, run, flee
pere - throw an arrow or dart, generally by means of a thong and rod.
O - The place of
mapere - a plant.

Onetahua - Farewell Spit

One - sand
tahua - heaped up.
Heaped up sand.


The place of Pononi.


Originates from the name of a spring off the eastern bluff of Waiotahi Beach called "O-Potiki-Mai-Tawhiti"meaning - two pets from afar or the place of the young child.


Opua - porch or verandah;
O - the place of
pua - flower;


O - The place of rewa.
rewa - Rewa is a fruit growing near the ends of a gourd.


O - the place of
rua - two, both
iti - small

Otamahua - Quail Island

O - the place of;
tama –short for Tamariki
hua – eggs.
Ngāi Tahu knew Quail Island as Otamahua, which means the place where children collected sea birds’ eggs.


O - the place of
tangaroa - god of the sea.

Ōtautahi - Christchurch

O - the place of Tautahi.

Ōtepoti - Dunedin

O - the place of
te – the
poti – corner, angle.


O - Food for the journey
torohanga - cause to extend over a long distance.
Food eked out. A chief who was going to Taupo carried only a small quantity of food which he made last out the journey by means of magic.


O - the place of
whango - hoarse, nasal sound.


Early name of Featherson.
Place of the Slaves.


Pae - ridge or range
roa - long.
Long low ridge of hills.


Ended, brought to a conclusion.


Pahi resting place,
atua – god.
The resting place of a god.


Good here.
It is believed that Reverend Henry Williams came to New Zealand knowing only a few words of Māori, one of them being ‘pai’meaning good. When they came to this place, he turned to his companion, a Māori chief, and said ‘Pai here’

Pāmutana - Palmerston North

Located in the Manawatu District North Island New Zealand

Papaeioea - Palmerston North

Located in the Manawatu District North Island New Zealand


The town's name originates from Māori words papa-kura meaning ‘red earth’ reflecting the rich, fertile soil upon which the community was founded. The indigenous residents are Māori, who built a Pa named ‘Puke Kiwiriki’, at the top of Red Hill. The site has a panoramic view of the approaches to Papakura


Papa - flat, broad, hard
roa - long.
Long, flat rock.


Paraawa - Gale, tempest
nui - big, large

Pārāwai - Thames

Known as the 'Gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula' North Island New Zealand


A kind of legging made of flax leaves
The renga lily, or the place where the lily grows


Life giving or bountiful.


Big Shellfish.


Pawa – smoke
renga – be full.


Unable to find a translation at this stage.


Pi - origin, source, flow
ra - sun, day, sail
nui - big, large, plentiful

Poneke - Wellington

Night movement.


Ponga - tree fern, game.
roa – long, many


When Kupe, the Māori explorer paddled through the harbours many years ago, he described the region as ‘Parirua - The flowing of the two tides, a reference to the two arms of the Porirua Harbour.
Today the city is better known as Porirua




Puke – hill
kohe – a native tree.
Hill where the kohekohe tree grows.


Puna – spring
kaiki – to lie in a heap.


Hunched up


Pupuke - overflowing lake


Puta - battle, opening, appear
taua - army, give way, succeed

Pūtauaki - Mt Edgecumbe


Rae - headland
tihi - summit, peak.

Rāhui-pōkeka - Huntly

Rakiura - Stewart Island

Rakiura - Glowing skies - possibly a reference to the
sunsets for which Stewart Island is famous for the aurora ustralis the Southern Lights that are a phenomenon of our Southern latitudes.
The southern most island of New Zealand.


Ranga - shoal of fish
unu - to pull out.
Good fishing.


Rangi - upper regions
kapiti - joined


Rangi - sky
riri - angry.
The angry sky.


Lowering cloud.


Rangi -sky
'tikei - extend, stretch out.

Rānui-pōkeka - Huntly

Located in the Waikato District North Island, New Zealand.

Rarotonga - Mt Smart


Setting Sun


From the Mā remutaka - to sit down.


Roto – Lake
iti – little.


Roto - lake
kakahi - freshwater shellfish.


Roto -Lake
roa - long.


The full name is Rotorua-nui-a-Kahu.
Roto - lake
rua - two.
Literally translated Rotorua means second lake. It was named by the Māori chief Ihenga, as it was the second major lake that he discovered. The lake is the largest of a multitude found to the north and east of the city, all connected with the Rotorua Caldera and nearby Mount Tarawera.

Ruamahanga River

Relating to the River.
Rua - two
mahanga - forks.
Situated in the South Wairarapa District at the southern most corner of New Zealand's North Island.


Rua - two
pehu - to explode.


Rua - two
wai - water.
Named in recognition of the location beside two waters, the Northern Wairoa River and the Kaipara Harbour.


Tahuna – sandbank
nui – many, big.


Keep the mouth shut, be silent

Tairawhiti - Gisborne

The coast upon which the sun shines across the water.

Tairawhiti - Gisborne

the coast upon which the sun shines across the water


Taka - heap
hue - gourds.




taka - assembly
puna - spring

Tamaki Makau Rau - Auckland

Located in the North Island of New Zealand.

Tamaki-nui-a-Rua - Dannevirke


Tara - peak
naki - slide


Tara - peak
naki - glide.


Tara - peaks
rua - two.
Two Peaks.


To fall.
a cord passed over the ridgepole of a house.
or tranquil season.




Taumaru - shaded, overshadowing
nui - big.


The full name is Taupo-nui-a-Tia.
Taupo - shoulder cloak.
nui - big.
Tia - is the name of the discoverer of the lake.
Literally translated it means ‘The great cloak of Tia’.

Taupo Bay

A ferruginous earth or stone.
A rough black and yellow cloak.


Resting place or anchorage for canoes.

Tauranga Bay

A resting place for canoes.

Tautoko - Levin

Te Ara a Kiwa - Foveaux Straight

A seaway 16 miles wide, separating Stewart Island from the South Island.

Te Awamutu

Te – the
awa – river
mutu – cut short, or ended.

Te Hapua Bay

Te – The
Hapua – Hollow like a valley, pool, lagoon

Te Kohanga o Te Tai Tokerau

The nest of the northern people.

Te Kopi

Palliser Bay.
Situated in the South Wairarapa District at the southern most corner of New Zealand's North Island.

Te Kuiti

Original Māori is Te Kuiti-tanga.
The closing in or the narrowing in, which is represented by the hills closing in when approaching from the north.
Te Kuiti O Nga Whakaaro O Te Iwi - narrowing down or concentrated thoughts of the people.

Te Maru - Timaru

place of shelter

Te Matakitaki a Kupe

Cape Palliser, from the Māori - The Gazing of Kupe.
A fur seal colony breeds at Cape Palliser, the only place in the North Island where breeding is well established.

Te Matau-a-Māui - Hawke's Bay

a gift from the sea

Te Moana-a-Toi-te-huatahi

Bay of Plenty

Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa - South Pacific Ocean

South Pacific Ocean

Te Moana-tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki

Southern Seas

Te Ngaere Bay

Te – The
Ngaere - Quake, oscillate, as a bog, swamp.
Roll, as the sea.
Soft and ripe.

Te Oha-a-Maru - Oamaru

Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē

Ninety Mile Beach

Te Oreore - Masterton

Te Paeroa o Toi - Coromandel Range

The long range of Toi.

Te Papa-i-oea - Palmerston North

Here are beauties indeed.

Te Parinui o Whiti - White Bluff

Located near Clifford Bay, of the Marlborough District New Zealand.

Te Puke

The Hill.

Te Punga o Te Waka - Stewart Island

The southern most island of New Zealand.
The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe - It refers to the part played by this Island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe, the South Island, caught and raised the great fish, the North Island.

Te Raki-pae-whenua - Northcote

Te Rakiura a Te Rakitamau a Maui - Stewart Island

The southern most island of New Zealand.
Great blush of Rakitamau - In reference to the latter's embarrassment when refused the hand in marriage of not one, but two daughters of an Island chief.

Te Rerenga Wairua - Cape Reinga

Te Rerenga - the place one flies from.
Wairua - spirit.
Reinga - Place of leaping.

Te Tai o Rehua

Tasman Sea

Te Taihau-ā-uru

West Coast of New Zealand

Te TairTe Tairawhiti whiti

East Coast of New Zealand

Te Taitokerau - Northland

Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui

The prow or tip of Maui’s canoe for which Maui fished up the North Island for which the Nelson Region is named.

Te Waimatemate

Slow moving waters
First name given to the district by the Māori that settled by the river, now known as Waimate.

Te Waipounamu - South Island

Te - the
Wai - water
pounamu - greenstone.
One of the main islands of New Zealand

Te Waka a Māui - South Island

The Canoe of Maui.

Te Werahi

Te - The
We - Liquid
rahi - Plentiful

Te Whanganui-a-Tara - Wellington

Referring to Wellington harbour - The great harbour of Tara.
The founding ancestor of the first Māori settlers of Wellington harbour. The descendants of Tara are known as the Ngai Tara.

tēnā tātou katoa

greetings to us all (speaker included)
thanks to all of us


Place of shelter.


Northern Autumn.


Toko - pole
roa - long.
It was also the name of a Māori Chief who was killed as he led his people against the British in the mid 1800s.


Tu – to stand
akau – shore or coast.
To stand by the shore of the river.


Tu - to stand
roa - tall.

Ūropi - Europe

Wāiharakeke - Blenheim

Wai - water
harakeke - flax.
Water where the flax grows.
Located on the northeast of the South Island of New Zealand.


Wai - water
hi - raise or draw up.

Waīhopai - Invercargill

Located in the southern Plains of the South Island New Zealand.


Wai - water
kato - flow.
Flowing water.

Waikato Bay

Wai – water
kato – flowing flood.


Wai – water
kere – clay, earth.

Waikerikeri - Selwyn River

Wai – water
Kerikeri – rushing along.


Wai – water
koro – old
pupu – sea snail.


Wai – water
makariri – cold.


Wai - water
mate - stagnant


Correct pronunciation is Wai-a-wanga: Water of hesitation.
Hau hesitated to cross this river when in pursuit of his wife.


Wai - water
nui - big, large.


Wai - water
o - of
hine - girl.


Wai - water
o - of
uru - chief.


Wai - water
pa - fortified village.
Fortified village beside water.


Wai - Water
poua - old.
Wai – water
po – night
ua – rain.
Water that comes from the rain at night


Glistening Waters.


Wai - water
roa - long.

Waitaha - Canterbury


Wai - Water
takere - deep
Deep pools or cascading waters. It is thought that the Auckland Waitakere may possibly be a corruption of Waitekauri, stream where the Kauri grows; but it is almost certain that it was named after a chief who was murdered at the mouth of the stream.


Wai - water
taki - sounding.
Rumbling waters, coming from the sound of the river over the shingle beds. There is a legend that the river was formed by the tears of two brothers whose sister was drowned at the mouth of the river and turned into a rock. The brothers were transformed into two hills near Ohou and their tears form the river of weeping.


Wai - water
tangi - weeping, mourning.


Wai - water
tomo - shaft.
Water entering the cave by means of long shafts.


Wai - water
uku - white clay.


Trough or hole of the giant

Whāingaro - Raglan

Raglan, a coastal town on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand some 50 km from Hamilton is famous for it's surfing, music, artisans, cafés and lifestyle.


White Island.

Whakaoriori - Masterton

The largest town in the Wairarapa region in the southeastern North Island of New Zealand.


To make a clearing in the forest.


Whaka - towards the direction of
pirau - rotten.


To act as a man.

Whakatū - Nelson

Located at the top northwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand.


Large stretch of water.


Whanga - Stretch of water, bay
pe - crushed.


Cherished Harbour.


Whanga - Stretch of water, bay
roa - long.


Whanga - bay
tupere - a small shark


Whara – be struck, be hit accidentally
riki – small, be broken into little pieces.

Wharekauri - Chatham Islands

Located east of the South Island, the ‘Chathams’, as they are affectionately known, is approximately a 1 ¾ hour flight from Wellington or Christchurch! The distance that separates the islands from the mainland puts Chatham Islands 45 minutes ahead of standard New Zealand time, and a close look at the international dateline shows that the Chathams are the first to see the light of every new day - a fact that made the islands famous at the time of the new millennium.


Whatu – weave baskets, baskets
whiwhi - can, be able.
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