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A Kiwi Glossary

Here’s a stand-alone version of the glossary you’ll find in the backs of my New Zealand books. New Zealand is a funny old place. When I first moved there, I’d hear something and think, “Wait, what?” Their unique words and speech patterns interested (and sometimes amused) me so much. In the interest of not confusing you the way I was confused, though, here are some translations.

A few notes about Maori pronunciation:

  • The accent is normally on the first syllable.
  • All vowels are pronounced separately.
  • All vowels except u have a short vowel sound.
  • “wh” is pronounced “f.”
  • “ng” is pronounced as in “singer,” not as in “anger.”

ABs: All Blacks
across the Ditch: in Australia (across the Tasman Sea). Or, if you’re in Australia, in New Zealand!
advert: commercial
agro: aggravation
air con: air conditioning
All Blacks: National rugby team. Members are selected for every series from amongst the five NZ Super 15 teams. The All Blacks play similarly selected teams from other nations.
ambo: paramedic
Aotearoa: New Zealand (the other official name, meaning “The Land of the Long White Cloud” in Maori)
arvo, this arvo: afternoon
Aussie, Oz: Australia. (An Australian is also an Aussie. Pronounced “Ozzie.”)
bach: holiday home (pronounced like “bachelor”)
backs: rugby players who aren’t in the scrum and do more running, kicking, and ball-carrying—though all players do all jobs and play both offense and defense. Backs tend to be faster and leaner than forwards.
bangers and mash: sausages and potatoes
barrack for: cheer for
bench: counter (kitchen bench)
berko: berserk
Big Smoke: the big city (usually Auckland)
bikkies: cookies
billy-o, like billy-o: like crazy. “I paddled like billy-o and just barely made it through that rapid.”
bin, rubbish bin: trash can
bit of a dag: a comedian, a funny guy
bits and bobs: stuff (“be sure you get all your bits and bobs”)
blood bin: players leaving field for injury
Blues: Auckland’s Super 15 team
bollocks: rubbish, nonsense
boofhead: fool, jerk
booking: reservation
boots and all: full tilt, no holding back
bot, the bot: flu, a bug
Boxing Day: December 26—a holiday
brekkie: breakfast
brilliant: fantastic
bub: baby, small child
buggered: messed up, exhausted
bull’s roar: close. “They never came within a bull’s roar of winning.”
bunk off: duck out, skip (bunk off school)
bust a gut: do your utmost, make a supreme effort
Cake Tin: Wellington’s rugby stadium (not the official name, but it looks exactly like a springform pan)
caravan: travel trailer
cardie: a cardigan sweater
CBD: Central Business District; downtown
chat up: flirt with
chilly bin: ice chest
chips: French fries. (potato chips are “crisps”)
chocolate bits: chocolate chips
chocolate fish: pink or white marshmallow coated with milk chocolate, in the shape of a fish. A common treat/reward for kids (and for adults. You often get a chocolate fish on the saucer when you order a mochaccino—a mocha).
choice: fantastic
chokka: full
chooks: chickens
Chrissy: Christmas
chuck out: throw away
chuffed: pleased
collywobbles: nervous tummy, upset stomach
come a greaser: take a bad fall
costume, cossie: swimsuit (female only)
cot: crib (for a baby)
crook: ill
cuddle: hug (give a cuddle)
cuppa: a cup of tea (the universal remedy)
CV: resumé
cyclone: hurricane (Southern Hemisphere)
dairy: corner shop (not just for milk!)
dead: very; e.g., “dead sexy.”
dill: fool
do your block: lose your temper
dob in: turn in; report to authorities. Frowned upon.
doco: documentary
doddle: something easy. “That’ll be a doddle.”
dodgy: suspect, low-quality
dogbox: The doghouse—in trouble
dole: unemployment.
dole bludger: somebody who doesn’t try to get work and lives off unemployment (which doesn’t have a time limit in NZ)
Domain: a good-sized park; often the “official” park of the town.
dressing gown: bathrobe
drongo: fool (Australian, but used sometimes in NZ as well)
drop your gear: take off your clothes
duvet: comforter
earbashing: talking-to, one-sided chat
electric jug: electric teakettle to heat water. Every Kiwi kitchen has one.
En Zed: Pronunciation of NZ. (“Z” is pronounced “Zed.”)
ensuite: master bath (a bath in the bedroom).
eye fillet: premium steak (filet mignon)
fair go: a fair chance. Kiwi ideology: everyone deserves a fair go.
fair wound me up: Got me very upset
fantail: small, friendly native bird
farewelled, he’ll be farewelled: funeral; he’ll have his funeral.
feed, have a feed: meal
first five, first five-eighth: rugby back—does most of the big kicking jobs and is the main director of the backs. Also called the No. 10.
fixtures: playing schedule
fizz, fizzie: soft drink
fizzing: fired up
flaked out: tired
flash: fancy
flat to the boards: at top speed
flat white: most popular NZ coffee. An espresso with milk but no foam.
flattie: roommate
flicks: movies
flying fox: zipline
footpath: sidewalk
footy, football: rugby
forwards: rugby players who make up the scrum and do the most physical battling for position. Tend to be bigger and more heavily muscled than backs.
fossick about: hunt around for something
front up: face the music, show your mettle
garden: yard
get on the piss: get drunk
get stuck in: commit to something
give way: yield
giving him stick, give him some stick about it: teasing, needling
glowworms: larvae of a fly found only in NZ. They shine a light to attract insects. Found in caves or other dark, moist places.
go crook, be crook: go wrong, be ill
go on the turps: get drunk
gobsmacked: astounded
good hiding: beating (“They gave us a good hiding in Dunedin.”)
grotty: grungy, badly done up
ground floor: what we call the first floor. The “first floor” is one floor up.
gumboots, gummies: knee-high rubber boots. It rains a lot in New Zealand.
gutted: thoroughly upset
Haast’s Eagle: (extinct). Huge native NZ eagle. Ate moa.
haere mai: welcome (Maori)
haka: ceremonial Maori challenge—done before every All Blacks game
halfback: No. 9 in rugby. With the first-five (No. 10), directs the game. Also feeds the scrum and generally collects the ball from the ball carrier at the breakdown and distributes it.
hang on a tick: wait a minute
hard man: the tough guy, the enforcer
hard yakka: hard work (from Australian)
harden up: toughen up. Standard NZ (male) response to (male) complaints: “Harden the f*** up!”
have a bit on: I have placed a bet on [whatever]. Sports gambling and prostitution are both legal in New Zealand.
have a go: try
have a nosy for… : look around for
head: principal (headmaster)
head down: or head down, bum up. Put your head down. Work hard.
heaps: lots. “Give it heaps.”
hei toki: pendant (Maori)
holiday: vacation
honesty box: a small stand put up just off the road with bags of fruit and vegetables and a cash box. Very common in New Zealand.
hooker: rugby position (forward)
hooning around: driving fast, wannabe tough-guy behavior (typically young men)
hoovering: vacuuming (after the brand of vacuum cleaner)
ice block: popsicle
I’ll see you right: I’ll help you out
in form: performing well (athletically)
it’s not on: It’s not all right
iwi: tribe (Maori)
jabs: immunizations, shots
jandals: flip-flops. (This word is only used in New Zealand. Jandals and gumboots are the iconic Kiwi footwear.)
jersey: a rugby shirt, or a pullover sweater
joker: a guy. “A good Kiwi joker”: a regular guy; a good guy.
journo: journalist
jumper: a heavy pullover sweater
ka pai: going smoothly (Maori).
kapa haka: school singing group (Maori songs/performances. Any student can join, not just Maori.)
karanga: Maori song of welcome (done by a woman)
keeping his/your head down: working hard
kia ora: good day (Maori, but used commonly)
kilojoules: like calories—measure of food energy
kindy: kindergarten (this is 3- and 4-year-olds)
kit, get your kit off: clothes, take off your clothes
Kiwi: New Zealander OR the bird. If the person, it’s capitalized. Not the fruit.
kiwifruit: the fruit. (Never called simply a “kiwi.”)
knackered: exhausted
knockout rounds: playoff rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, final)
koru: ubiquitous spiral Maori symbol of new beginnings, hope
kumara: Maori sweet potato.
ladder: standings (rugby)
littlies: young kids
lock: rugby position (forward)
lollies: candy
lolly: candy or money
lounge: living room
mad as a meat axe: crazy
maintenance: child support
major: “a major.” A big deal, a big event
mana: prestige, earned respect, spiritual power. A critical Maori (and NZ) concept.
Maori: native people of NZ—though even they arrived relatively recently from elsewhere in Polynesia
marae: Maori meeting house
Marmite: Savory Kiwi yeast-based spread for toast. An acquired taste. (Kiwis swear it tastes different from Vegemite, the Aussie version.)
mate: friend. And yes, fathers call their sons “mate.”
metal road: gravel road
Milo: cocoa substitute; hot drink mix
mind: take care of, babysit
moa: (extinct) Any of several species of huge flightless NZ birds. All eaten by the Maori before Europeans arrived.
moko: Maori tattoo
mokopuna: grandchildren
motorway: freeway
mozzie: mosquito; OR a Maori Australian (Maori + Aussie = Mozzie)
muesli: like granola, but unbaked
munted: broken
naff: stupid, unsuitable. “Did you get any naff Chrissy pressies this year?”
nappy: diaper
narked, narky: annoyed
netball: Down-Under version of basketball for women. Played like basketball, but the hoop is a bit narrower, the players wear skirts, and they don’t dribble and can’t contact each other. It can look fairly tame to an American eye. There are professional netball teams, and it’s televised and taken quite seriously.
new caps: new All Blacks—those named to the side for the first time
New World: One of the two major NZ supermarket chains
nibbles: snacks
nick, in good nick: doing well
niggle, niggly: small injury, ache or soreness
no worries: no problem. The Kiwi mantra.
No. 8: rugby position. A forward
not very flash: not feeling well
Nurofen: brand of ibuprofen
nutted out: worked out
OE: Overseas Experience—young people taking a year or two overseas, before or after University.
offload: pass (rugby)
oldies: older people. (or for the elderly, “wrinklies!”)
on the front foot: Having the advantage. Vs. on the back foot—at a disadvantage. From rugby.
Op Shop: charity shop, secondhand shop
out on the razzle: out drinking too much, getting crazy
paddock: field (often used for rugby—“out on the paddock”)
Pakeha: European-ancestry people (as opposed to Polynesians)
Panadol: over-the-counter painkiller
partner: romantic partner, married or not
patu: Maori club
paua, paua shell: NZ abalone
pavlova (pav): Classic Kiwi Christmas (summer) dessert. Meringue, fresh fruit (often kiwifruit and strawberries) and whipped cream.
pavement: sidewalk (generally on wider city streets)
pear-shaped, going pear-shaped: messed up, when it all goes to Hell
penny dropped: light dawned (figured it out)
people mover: minivan
perve: stare sexually
phone’s engaged: phone’s busy
piece of piss: easy
pike out: give up, wimp out
piss awful: very bad
piss up: drinking (noun) a piss-up
pissed: drunk
pissed as a fart: very drunk. And yes, this is an actual expression.
play up: act up
playing out of his skin: playing very well
plunger: French Press coffeemaker
pohutukawa: native tree; called the “New Zealand Christmas Tree” for its beautiful red blossoms at Christmastime (high summer)
poi: balls of flax on strings that are swung around the head, often to the accompaniment of singing and/or dancing by women. They make rhythmic patterns in the air, and it’s very beautiful.
Pom, Pommie: English person
pop: pop over, pop back, pop into the oven, pop out, pop in
possie: position (rugby)
postie: mail carrier
pot plants: potted plants (not what you thought, huh?)
poumanu: greenstone (jade)
prang: accident (with the car)
pressie: present
puckaroo: broken (from Maori)
pudding: dessert
pull your head in: calm down, quit being rowdy
Pumas: Argentina’s national rugby team
pushchair: baby stroller
put your hand up: volunteer
put your head down: work hard
rapt: thrilled
rattle your dags: hurry up. From the sound that dried excrement on a sheep’s backside makes, when the sheep is running!
red card: penalty for highly dangerous play. The player is sent off for the rest of the game, and the team plays with 14 men.
rellies: relatives
riding the pine: sitting on the bench (as a substitute in a match)
rimu: a New Zealand tree. The wood used to be used for building and flooring, but like all native NZ trees, it was over-logged. Older houses, though, often have rimu floors, and they’re beautiful.
Rippa: junior rugby
root: have sex (you DON’T root for a team!)
ropeable: very angry
ropey: off, damaged (“a bit ropey”)
rort: ripoff
rough as guts: uncouth
rubbish bin: garbage can
rugby boots: rugby shoes with spikes (sprigs)
Rugby Championship: Contest played each year in the Southern Hemisphere by the national teams of NZ, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina
Rugby World Cup, RWC: World championship, played every four years amongst the top 20 teams in the world
rugged up: dressed warmly
ruru: native owl
Safa: South Africa. Abbreviation only used in NZ.
sammie: sandwich
scoff, scoffing: eating, like “snarfing”
selectors: team of 3 (the head coach is one) who choose players for the All Blacks squad, for every series
serviette: napkin
shag: have sex with. A little rude, but not too bad.
shattered: exhausted
sheds: locker room (rugby)
she’ll be right: See “no worries.” Everything will work out. The other Kiwi mantra.
shift house: move (house)
shonky: shady (person). “a bit shonky”
shout, your shout, my shout, shout somebody a coffee: buy a round, treat somebody
sickie, throw a sickie: call in sick
sin bin: players sitting out 10-minute penalty in rugby (or, in the case of a red card, the rest of the game).
sink the boot in: kick you when you’re down
skint: broke (poor)
skipper: (team) captain. Also called “the Skip.”
slag off: speak disparagingly of; disrespect
smack: spank. Smacking kids is illegal in NZ.
smoko: coffee break
snog: kiss; make out with
sorted: taken care of
spa, spa pool: hot tub
sparrow fart: the crack of dawn
speedo: Not the swimsuit! Speedometer. (the swimsuit is called a budgie smuggler—a budgie is a parakeet, LOL.)
spew: vomit
spit the dummy: have a tantrum. (A dummy is a pacifier)
sportsman: athlete
sporty: liking sports
spot on: absolutely correct. “That’s spot on. You’re spot on.”
Springboks, Boks: South African national rugby team
squiz: look. “I was just having a squiz round.” “Giz a squiz”: Give me a look at that.
stickybeak: nosy person, busybody
stonkered: drunk—a bit stonkered—or exhausted
stoush: bar fight, fight
straight away: right away
strength of it: the truth, the facts. “What’s the strength of that?” = “What’s the true story on that?”
stroppy: prickly, taking offense easily
stuffed up: messed up
Super 15: Top rugby competition: five teams each from NZ, Australia, South Africa. The New Zealand Super 15 teams are, from north to south: Blues (Auckland), Chiefs (Waikato/Hamilton), Hurricanes (Wellington), Crusaders (Canterbury/Christchurch), Highlanders (Otago/Dunedin).
supporter: fan (Do NOT say “root for.” “To root” is to have (rude) sex!)
suss out: figure out
sweet: dessert
sweet as: great. (also: choice as, angry as, lame as … Meaning “very” whatever. “Mum was angry as that we scoffed all the pudding before tea with Nana.”)
takahe: ground-dwelling native bird. Like a giant parrot.
takeaway: takeout (food)
tall poppy: arrogant person who puts himself forward or sets himself above others. It is every Kiwi’s duty to cut down tall poppies, a job they undertake enthusiastically.
Tangata Whenua: Maori (people of the land)
tapu: sacred (Maori)
Te Papa: the National Museum, in Wellington
tea: dinner (casual meal at home)
tea towel: dishtowel
test match: international rugby match (e.g., an All Blacks game)
throw a wobbly: have a tantrum
tick off: cross off (tick off a list)
ticker: heart. “The boys showed a lot of ticker out there today.”
togs: swimsuit (male or female)
torch: flashlight
touch wood: knock on wood (for luck)
track: trail
trainers: athletic shoes
tramping: hiking
transtasman: Australia/New Zealand (the Bledisloe Cup is a transtasman rivalry)
trolley: shopping cart
tucker: food
tui: Native bird
turn to custard: go south, deteriorate
turps, go on the turps: get drunk
Uni: University—or school uniform
up the duff: pregnant. A bit vulgar (like “knocked up”)
ute: pickup or SUV
vet: check out
waiata: Maori song
wairua: spirit, soul (Maori). Very important concept.
waka: canoe (Maori)
Wallabies: Australian national rugby team
Warrant of Fitness: certificate of a car’s fitness to drive
wedding tackle: the family jewels; a man’s genitals
Weet-Bix: ubiquitous breakfast cereal
whaddarya?: I am dubious about your masculinity (meaning “Whaddarya … pussy?”)
whakapapa: genealogy (Maori). A critical concept.
whanau: family (Maori). Big whanau: extended family. Small whanau: nuclear family.
wheelie bin: rubbish bin (garbage can) with wheels.
whinge: whine. Contemptuous! Kiwis dislike whingeing. Harden up!
White Ribbon: campaign against domestic violence
wind up: upset (perhaps purposefully). “Their comments were bound to wind him up.”
wing: rugby position (back)
Yank: American. Not pejorative.
yellow card: A penalty for dangerous play that sends a player off for 10 minutes to the sin bin. The team plays with 14 men during that time—or even 13, if two are sinbinned.
yonks: ages. “It’s been going on for yonks.”


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