How to understand a Kiwi

How to understand a Kiwi

How to understand a Kiwi





New Zealanders do speak English. However, they speak their very own English, commonly referred to as Kiwi English. Therefore, if you are travelling to New Zealand for the first time, there will be words and expressions you have never heard before.  A number of Māori words have also been adopted into everyday Kiwi conversation, even while speaking English.

New Zealanders have a distinct accent that is unique and very unlike any other one in the world. One of the characteristics of the way Kiwis speak is the shortening of words. Their usage of language is very economical and they will abbreviate any word they can.  They like to swallow the endings of words here, similar to the Southern Spain, and then, of course, there is the Great New Zealand Vowel Shift and somehow “e”s become “i”s.


Learning Kiwi is not that easy, so let us start with some popular words and phrases:

Kia ora - a Maori greeting that is common in New Zealand nowadays

Sweet as - quite possibly, the most famous of Kiwi expressions, «sweet as» means good, ok, cool, whatever (?). An expression of affirmation more or less, usually followed with «bro»

Dairy - a 24-hour corner shop where you can get some basic foods and convenience produce

Bro - short for “brother”, a term of friendship used with an alarming regularity 

Cuz – while technically short for «cousin», this is mostly used as a term of friendship but can also be used as just a casual way to address someone. Sometimes the longer form “cuzzy” is used.

Chur - Kiwi for thanks, cool, sweet as, etc. A more informal version of «cheers bro». Can also be used as a NZ version of “ta da!”

Yeah right - means “I don't believe you at all”

Tiki tour  - taking a scenic route to get somewhere

Bach – a holiday home, often on the beach.  Usually small and a bit shabby but it is likely no one will mind you traipsing some sand through the house (pronounced «batch»)

Crib (mainly on South Island) - another word for “bach”

Gap it – can simply mean “to leave” or “to run away”

Boy-racer: a young guy in a fast car with unbelievably loud stereo

A mare - short for “nightmare”

Tu Meke - a Maori word that means “too much”

Ke te pai - I'm good

Piss (pronounced “puss”) - beer 

Sink piss - drink beer

Suck the kumara – endure hard times, lose. The phrase possibly originates from something to do with death and thus, buried under ground. A kumara is a sweet potato.

Winner – complete loser

Iwi - tribe, may be applied to people from other nations in an ironic way

Chook - chicken

Crook - sick, unwell



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