Unique Kiwi Expressions

Although New Zealand is pretty isolated geographically, socially, culturally, and gastronomically, we, kiwi´s like to stand out in our own special way. After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 citizens from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, United States, India, China, South Afrika and other various parts of continental Europe settled in New Zealand. This intermingling with the indigenous Mãori brought about its unique ¨New Zealand accent¨. The distinctive influences and variation on the English language became firstly recognised in 1912. Besides slang, we also speak with a rising intonation at the end giving the impression of making our statements sound like questions.

Another quirk others find baffling is that in informal speech we use the third person feminine she instead of the third person neuter it as the subject of a sentence, especially when the word starts the sentence, like ¨She’ll be right¨, meaning it will be okay, not a problem, or it´s close enough to what is required. Others are, ¨She was a great car¨, or ¨she´s a real beauty, this (object)¨.


Various expressions that are commonly used:

How is it going? Pronounced howzit going? Doesn’t mean where are you going, but how are you or what have you been up to.

Kia Ora is used in everyday life as hello, thank you or goodbye. It is a Maori greeting that means ¨Be well¨.

Cuppa is widely known as offering a cup of whatever the person is drinking, but in New Zealand, it refers to either a cup of tea or coffee. For example ¨Wanna cuppa? ¨

Bob´s your uncle doesn´t mean we are referring to any of your relatives, it just means ¨there you go, there you have it¨.

BYO is short for ´bring your own booze´.  It means you can bring your own alcohol or soft drink (whatever is your favourite poison) to a barbeque or in a BYO restaurant.

Bring a plate, doesn´t mean to bring plates to eat from. It means to bring a prepared meal like a salad (potato, fish), dessert, baked chicken dish, etc.

I´m knackered doesn´t refer to a person who disposes of dead animals but expresses ¨I´m tired or I´m exhausted¨.

Rattle ya dags, Dags is the fleece part around a sheep´s bum. When the sheep run their dried dags rattle. This has been adopted in our daily life to say ¨Hurry up¨.

Takeaways is normally understood as any restaurant or place that sells cooked food to be eaten elsewhere, but in New Zealand, it is just fish ´n´ chips shops. For example: ¨I´m grabbing some grub at the takeaways, wanna come? ¨

Yeah-Nah means ¨not really, no¨. It´s used by kiwis when we get what you´re saying but don´t want to offend by simply saying no.

Popping to the Dairy is quite a common phrase. A dairy is a privately-owned shop, deli, convenience store that supplies mainly food like milk, yogurt, eggs, and some basic products, toothpaste, washing powder, etc. This phrase means to go to the local or corner shop that may be open outside normal hours.

You can´t help bad luck, which may sound baffling when used as it is a phrase used to congratulate people. Its significance is contrary to its literal meaning.

Tiki tour means travelling with no definite place or end in mind, exploration, or taking a meandering route in order to waste time towards your destination. For example, ¨Wanna go for a tiki tour to Wellington? ¨

Wop-wops, the boonies, up the boohai or up the Puhoi (River) are used to describe a place in the middle of nowhere, an out of the way location, when lost or stranded, or unwilling to divulge whereabouts. For example ¨No-way man, she´s living in the wop-wops¨.

Eh, pronounced as ¨ay¨ is commonly used throughout the country at the end of sentences when you´re not really asking a question, but are providing a statement that you expect a response to or a confirmation. Or when used on its own it can mean as in ¨what? ¨ or ¨pardon? ¨ For example ¨Wow! check this out, eh? ¨

Valet is universal known to describe a car parking service, however, in New Zealand, it has a different meaning. Valet is generally referred to car cleaning services, which can be quite confusing when heard.

Sweet as or sweet, is said when something is rather good then just good, means Cool, Awesome or everything´s okay. For example ¨Sweet as bro¨, or ¨Yeah, had a sweet as night with some mates¨.

Chips doesn´t mean the drama series of the California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers. It means crisps or potato chips.

Hot chips are fries or French fries

Heaps isn´t a pile or a great deal but means lots, a lot, many, abundant, plenty, plentifully. For example, ¨Talk about heaps of sheep in New Zealand. ¨ ¨I love you heaps. ¨ ¨Give it heaps! ¨ Give it your best effort!

A motorway is a four-lane to a six-lane dual road for fast-moving traffic. Meaning a highway or expressway.

Crib or Bach pronounced as ´batch´ and means a small, often very modest holiday home, usually at the seaside. For example, ¨My bach is within walking distance of the beach. ¨

Suss usually means to realize or grasp but in New Zealand, it means to investigate or can be short for a suspect. For example: ¨I need to suss it out first. ¨ or ¨Doesn´t he look a bit suss. ¨

Long drop is an outdoor toilet but with a hole build over a pit with no flushing mechanism, also known as a small outhouse.

Jandals are widely used in New Zealand, both in the summer and winter. It´s slang for flip-flops or thongs

Tramping is used exclusively in New Zealand for bushwalking and hiking. It is travelling through open or more often forested areas on foot.

Togs is an informal term for either gender of swimwear.

The townhouse has a different meaning from the Australian, American, Asian, European understanding of typically terraced houses and UK city houses of nobility. In New Zealand, it means a small self-contained free-standing house with hardly or no backyard and usually with a shared driveway with neighbouring houses.

Wee meaning a short time, a little bit, small or little. It is copied from informal Scottish but is in common formal use throughout New Zealand. For example, ¨my coffee was a wee bit strong¨.

Whiteware are major kitchen appliances, white goods used in the UK.

Tucker or kai (Mäori) means food. For example ¨Grab some kai and we´re ready to go¨.

Shingle is gravel for when describing an unsealed road. For example ¨A shingle road¨.

Tar seal road is a chip seal road.

A metal road is a dirt road overlaid with gravel to keep the dust down and assist drainage, typically found in rural settings.

Pukerood or pakaru (Mäori) for busted, broken, wrecked.

Ranch slider term for a sliding door, usually of aluminum frame and containing glass panels. Ranchslider is a registered trademark of Fletcher Window & Door Systems

Shot meaning thank you, to express joy, give praise, well done! For example, ¨Good shot, bro¨.

Choice! A one-word rejoinder expressing satisfaction

Stoked meaning very pleased, delighted. For example: ¨I´m stoked¨.

Wahine (Mäori) for woman, wife

Whanau (Mäori) for family

Puku (Mäori) for stomach, belly

Cattle stop meaning cattle grid, a device that prevents cattle from straying on country roads.

Judder bar meaning speed bump, a raised section of road used to deter excessive speed.

Twink is a common generic term used for Wite-Out, Correction fluid.

Cheers usually used at the end of a letter or email, meaning thank you, regards, or as a toast when toasting a beverage in celebration of an event or person.

Shift meaning move, moving. For example: ¨I´m shifting tomorrow¨, ¨Hurry up and shift your gear¨.



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