Aroha: Love, compassion, tenderness
Aro is the mind and seat of emotions; hā is the breath of life. A compound word that says everything, really. Māori is a language with rolled ‘Rs’ — as such, you should pronounce this word as uh-roh-huh.
Aotearoa: The ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ (the Māori name for New Zealand)
Initially only used to denominate the North Island, Aotearoa is believed to have originated from ao (cloud), tea (white, clear, bright), and roa (cloud). Pronounce each distinctive syllable: ao-teh-uh-roh-uh.
Whānau: The extended family
This word incorporates both the spiritual and physical dimensions of Māori family life, from tribal traditions to genealogical ancestry. In Te Reo Māori, ‘wh’ is a letter of the alphabet commonly pronounced with a soft ‘f’ sound (this differs according to dialect). When put together, ‘au’ sounds similar to an English-language ‘oh’. As such, pronounce whānau as fah-noh.
Karakia: To recite a prayer
Formerly used to describe a spell or incantation, karakia is both the act of reciting a prayer and the prayer itself. Pronounce it as kuh-ruh-kee-uh.
Similar to the word ‘taboo’, tapu can be something that is holy, forbidden, sacred or inviolable. People, places and objects seen as tapu should never be touched by human hands, and in some instances shouldn’t be approached at all. Pronounce the ‘u’ with a snappy ‘ooh’ sound, tuh-pooh.
Tāngata: People, humankind
Tangata, without the macron, is the singular form. The ā in the plural tāngata should be enunciated with a stretched ‘ahh’ sound, while the other ‘As’ should be kept relatively brief. In other words, pronounce it as tahn-guh-tuh.
As a noun, tamarki means children. But it can also mean childhood, youthfulness and, in some cases, immaturity. Pronounce it as tuh-muh-ree-kee.
Kaumātua: An elder
Māori elders have always been held in high esteem and are often thought as the leaders of a tribe. Pronounce kaumātua as koh-mah-too-uh.
Taonga: Something treasured or highly precious
In contemporary parlance, taonga can describe just about anything that is of high value — including objects, words, or even a memory. It is often used when talking about special heirlooms and artefacts, as well as treasured natural resources like geothermal springs, ancestral lands or rivers. It’s pronounced as tuh-on-ga with an almost-silent ‘g’ sound.
Ihi: Power, charisma, a beam of light
Used within an interpersonal context, ihi relates to charismatic radiance — the ability to influence, impress or simply to captivate an audience. Ihi can also mean a ray of sunlight or a light beam. Keep the two ‘Is’ at an equal length, and pronounce ihi as e-he. Take care not to say it as eeh-he (with an emphasis on the first vowel sound) since that is the way to enunciate īhi – the Māori word for yeast.
Whenua: Land, country, nation
Māori have always had a strong spiritual connection to the land and sea. The word whenua, describing the country or the nation, is often used alongside tangata — ‘tangata whenua’ being the local people, the people of the land, the indigenous owners of a territory. Pronounce whenua as feh-noo-uh.