Te Reo Māori Terms

hapū Kinship group, clan, subtribe
hui Literally a gathering or meeting. As used in this report, hui refers to a community meeting conducted according to tikanga Māori (Māori protocol).
iwi Often translated as “tribe”. Iwi is a collection of hapū (clans) that are composed of whānau (defined below). The link between the three groups is genealogical.
kaitiaki Trustee, minder, guard, custodian, guardian, caregiver, keeper, steward.

Guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship, trustee.


Adult, elder, elderly person, old man – a person of status within the whānau.


Purpose, mission, or approach. Kaupapa Māori means an approach reflecting

mokopuna Grandchild – child or grandchild of a son, daughter, nephew, niece, etc.
pākehā New Zealander of European descent; literally English, European or foreign.
rangatira Chieftain, chieftainess, master, mistress, boss, supervisor, employer, landlord, owner, proprietor.
rangatiratanga A contested term in the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It can refer to chieftainship or chiefly authority and leadership. Other interpretations include “sovereignty” and autonomy.
rohe Boundary, district, region, territory, area, border (of land).
rūnanga A governing body associated with an iwi.
Te Puni Kōkiri The Ministry of Māori Development.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi The Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty signed by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs at Waitangi on 6 February 1840. The Treaty is one of New Zealand’s founding documents. The Treaty has English and Māori versions. The translations do not strictly align.
tangata whenua Literally “the people of the land”.
tāonga That which is precious or treasured
taura here Binding ropes, urban kinship group, domestic migrants, kinship link.
te ao Māori Literally “the Māori world”.
Te Ika a Māui Literally “the fish of Māui” – the North Island of New Zealand.
Te Hiku o Te Ika The part of the Far North District that is north of the Hokianga.
Te Waipounamu The South Island.
tikanga Literally “the things that are correct”. Sometimes translated as “protocol” or “customary practice”, tikanga is the customary system of values and practices that have developed over time and are deeply embedded in the social context.
tino rangatiratanga Self-determination, self-governance.
wāhi tapu Sacred place, sacred site – a place subject to long-term ritual restrictions on access or use (eg, a burial ground or a battle site).
wānanga Publicly owned tertiary institutions that provide education in a Māori cultural context.
whakapapa Genealogy, genealogical table, lineage, descent.
whānau Typically translated as “families”. Whānau may refer to nuclear or extended families.

Māori Values and Culture

kawanatanga The features and actions of governing.
koha Gift or donation
kōhanga reo Literally “language nests” – pre-school Māori culture and language immersion programmes.
kōrero kanohi ki te kanohi Conversing face to face
kura kaupapa Māori Māori-medium schools.
mana Prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, charisma.
manaaki Support, hospitality, kindness, generosity.
manaakitanga The process of showing respect, generosity and care for others. It has an overtone of hospitality towards those outside a group one identifies with. In its simplest definition (hospitality), all Māori groups or whānau will exercise manaakitanga at some time.
mana motuhake A political concept, emphasising autonomy and self-government.
mana whakahaere Translated variously as the “power to manage”, “governance” or “authority”.
mana whenua The iwi or hapū who are recognised as deriving mana (authority/status) from their ancestral connection to a particular piece of land or stretch of coastline.
marae Literally “courtyard” – the open area in front of the wharenui, (meeting house) where formal greetings and discussions take place. Often also used to include the complex of buildings around the marae.
mataawaka Refers to the Māori population in one area that is connected to an iwi or hapū who holds mana whenua somewhere outside that area.


Common Māori Terms

The following list of terms are in common useage nationally. To get a thorough understanding of terminology we recommend enrolment at a Te Reo course.