Maori words to help travellers in New Zealand

Components of place names

Ordinary geographical features such as hills, rivers, cliffs, streams, mountains, the coast and adjectives describing them, such as small, big, little and long, are to be found in many place names. Here is a list so you can recognise them:

  • Au current
  • Awa river
  • Iti small, little
  • Kai one of the meanings of kai is food; in a place name it signifies a place where a particular food source was plentiful, e.g., Kaikōura, the place where crayfish (kōura) abounded and were eaten
  • Mānia plain
  • Manga stream
  • Maunga mountain
  • Moana sea, or large inland ‘sea’, e.g., Taupō
  • Motu island
  • Nui large, big
  • ō or o means ‘of’ (so does a, ā); many names begin with ō, meaning the place of so-and-so, e.g., ōkahukura, ōkiwi, ōhau, etc.
  • One sand, earth
  • Pae ridge, range
  • Papa flat
  • Poto short
  • Puke hill
  • Roa long
  • Roto lake; inside
  • Tai coast, tide
  • Wai water
  • Whanga harbour, bay

maori language: an official language in New Zealand

It’s the annual Maori Language week … time to improve your skills

Learn to pronounce Maori – one of New Zealands  official languages :

Vowels – Introduction
(There are 5 vowels in Māori. ā,ē,ī,ō,ū)
a, papa
(a – [short vowel], papa – earth)
ā, pāpā
(ā – [long vowel], pāpā – father)
e, kete
(e [short vowel], kete – kit)
ē, pēke
(ē [long vowel], bag)
i, mihi
(i – [short vowel], mihi – greeting)
ī, tītī
(ī – [long vowel], tītī – mutton bird)
o, oma
(o – [short vowel], oma – run)
ō, tō
(ō – [long vowel], tō – your)
u, huruhuru
(u – [short vowel], huruhuru – hair)
ū, tūrū
(ū – [long vowel], tūrū – chair)