After my previous article on Australian slang, I thought it would be fun to do the same with New Zealand. Home of the Māoris, the country has a wide range of words and expressions that can sometimes have several meanings. So, if you’re planning a trip soon, or are simply interested in the slang of other countries, this article is for you! Let’s dive right in!

New Zealand language

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Useful and popular slang words/expressions

New Zealand, like any other part of the world, can be a pretty tough place to navigate, all the more so when English isn’t your first language. Add to that New Zealand slang, which is a language in its own right, and understanding people can be tricky. But once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun trying to speak like a Kiwi!

1. Aotearoa

Meaning “Land of the Long White Cloud”, this is what New Zealand is called in Māori.

2. Kiwi

Not to be confused with the fruit, this is what “New Zealanders” are called. I think it’s a very cute way to call a country’s inhabitants, don’t you?

3. Kia Ora

It’s a word that’s both tricky and easy to pronounce, as it can have different meanings depending on the situation you’re in: “Hello”, “Thank you” and even “Goodbye”!

4. Haere mai

You’ll see this one a lot, probably as soon as you arrive, as it’s used to say “Welcome” in the Māori language.

5. Aroha

One of the things I love to learn is how to express or say “love” in every country I go to. So, of course, this word is one of my favorites! If you want to know how to say “I love you” in Māori, here’s how: Kei te aroha au ki a koe.

6. Tramping

I have to confess that this is one of the words I expected to be quite rude when I first heard it, but that’s not the case as it means “hiking”.

7. Sweet as

Kiwis love this expression, as it’s probably the one I heard most often when I lived there. It usually translates as “cool”, “sounds good”, “that’s great” and many more, but it’s always used when you’re happy with a situation or agree with your friends…

8. Chur

This one’s a bit similar to the previous one in that you can use it in the same situations you’d use “Sweet as”. But it essentially translates as “Thank you”.

9. Ta

Remember? It’s also Australian slang, and both mean the same thing: “Thank you” abbreviated!

10. Choice as

Another expression used when you’re happy or in agreement with something, it translates as “that’s great”, “alright”, “awesome”….

11. As

I get the impression that “as” has its own place in New Zealand slang because they constantly place it after a word: “sweet as”, “mean as”, “fun as”. It’s actually a way of emphasizing words!

12. Bro

Bro is like “mate” in Australia, and is used to designate a “close friend”.

13. Wops wops

If you go to a remote part of New Zealand, the locals may tell you that you’re in “wops wops”, which means “a place in the middle of nowhere, far from everything”.

14. Togs

If I say to you, “Take your togs and let’s go to the beach”, you might have an idea! That’s slang for “swimsuit” – a bit tricky, isn’t it?

15. Jandals

I love Oceania, you know why? Because it’s the continent where I’ve seen a lot of people, even in cities, walking barefoot. New Zealand is a very laid-back country and that’s why you’ll see a lot of people wearing “jandals” or “flip flops”, even if they’re not at the beach.

16. Tea

Not an actual cup of tea, but a word meaning “dinner”.

17. Bungy

As you may have already guessed, the country is very fond of bungee jumping, so this slang word translates simply as “the elastic strap” used for the sport.

18. Hard case

If you tell a dad joke or something more witty and someone finds it funny, they’ll usually say you’re a “hard case”, which means “you’re funny”!

19. Bit of a dag

This term is also used to describe someone who is “funny”, “witty” or “cheeky”. But is has a different meaning when referring to sheep, as it describes the poo stuck in the wool around the sheep’s buttocks.

20. Stubbie

Another word for “beer bottle”, not to be confused with “stubbies”, which are short shorts for men!

21. Flat out

An expression you might use to say that you’re “very busy and very tired”.

22. Pav

Short for “pavlova”, our Kiwi friends’ favorite dessert, especially at Christmas. This meringue-based dessert is something of a tradition over there, and you can be sure to see it in every store as the festive season approaches!

23. Yarn

It’s not the ball of yarn your cat likes to play with, but in New Zealand, this word translates as: “to have a good, nice chat”.

24. Stoked

“I’m so stoked”, which means I’m “super-duper happy”!

25. Chrissy pressies

You’ll probably hear it during the festive season, especially at Christmas, because it means “Christmas presents”.

26. Nah, yeah, nah

As Kiwis are rather discreet and very friendly, they generally don’t want to offend you, so they may answer a question with “nah, yeah, nah”. It still means “no”, but in a more subtle way.

27. Yeah, nah, yeah

Just the opposite of the previous one, as this one means “yes”. Simple enough, isn’t it? Just listen to the last word to understand what the other person really means.

Swear Expressions

28. Jafa

Used to describe Aucklanders: “Just another f Aucklander” is well, pejorative. Aucklanders are also perceived as colder than people from any other city in the country. I just think their way of life may be too different, as Kiwis love their laid-back lifestyle and I guess the bustling city of Auckland may be a bit too much for them.

29. Bugger

“Oh bugger” is like “Oh damn!”.

30. Drongo

I hope you won’t be called a “drongo”, as this word means “stupid”, unless it’s used in jest or affectionately between friends.

That’s a wrap! I hope this little guide has been of interest and help to you! Here’s the link to the Québécois version, if you’re interested!

What about you? Have you heard any other words or expressions on your travels?
Or do you have any strange and amusing expressions from your own country? If so, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section!

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12 Comments

  1. I was hoping to read something about New Zealand’s traditional Haka. Would like to know what those words mean, but the list of words in this post kinda resembles it. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Oh yes, of course, everybody knows about the haka (which is a ceremonial dance originally performed to show strength and pride, often performed by warriors before a battle).
      Thanks for asking and commenting ☺️

  2. This is such a helpful list of slang words and a must-read for anyone considering visit this beautiful country. Thanks for doing all the research!

  3. Who would’ve thought? So interesting and hilarious. I would get upset too if someone says I am ‘tramping’ around New Zealand. This is useful to know. Thanks for sharing!

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