Learning to speak Kiwi

While the English and New Zealanders speak the same language, there are many words that Kiwis use for everyday things or situations that an English person probably wouldn’t recognise.

To help you blend in on your next visit to Aotearoa, here’s is a list of the ones I have come across that you can experiment with.

Chilly bin: This is what we would probably call a cooler.

Togs: Used to mean any kind of swimwear.

Pants: Like the Americans, Kiwis have adopted the word ‘pants’ to mean ‘trousers’.

Jandals: Apparently an abbreviation of ‘Japanese Sandals.’ We call these flip flops although Kiwis seem bemused when you tell them we named them after the sound they make as you walk along in them. Makes perfect sense to me…

Lollies: A generic terms for sweets, rather than our meaning of something on a stick.

Yoghurt: This actually does mean ‘yoghurt’ but Kiwis pronounce it the same way Americans do by saying ‘yoh-gurt’ rather than the English pronunciation of ‘yog-gurt’.

Pasta: Again, this does in fact mean ‘pasta’ but Kiwis have adopted the American pronunciation and say ‘par-sta’ rather than ‘pa-sta’.

Ice block: We would call this an ice lolly.

Capsicum: This is what we would call a pepper and what the Americans call a bell pepper. I always forget to look under ‘c’ instead of ‘p’ when using the self-weighing scales at the supermarket.

Eggplant: Another Americanism; this is an aubergine. More confusion at the scales.

Zucchini: Again, another Americanism but this is a courgette to you and me.

Hokey pokey: Often found as an ice cream flavour, this is the Kiwi word for honeycomb.

Maccas: This is how Kiwis describe the Scottish Takeaway aka McDonalds or Macky Dees as it’s affectionally known in the UK.

Sammie: This is a sandwich, the English abbreviation being ‘sarnie’.

Gummies: No, not a type of sweet. This is an abbreviation of gumboots or what the English would call wellies.

Chips or chippies: These are what we would call crisps, the ones that come in a bag.

Hot chips: Given that ‘chips’ are crisps in New Zealand, the Kiwis had to come up with another name for the kind of chips you have with your fish. So they make reference to the thermal difference. And they pronounce them ‘chups.’ Sorry. I couldn’t resist it.

Good as gold: Another quintessential kiwi expression used as an affirmative answer.

Dag: This actually means a piece of old poo hanging off a sheep’s bum but when used to describe a person, it generally means that they are funny or have an eccentric personality.

Bach: No, not the baroque composer. This is a beach house and is pronounced ‘batch’ to rhyme with ‘match.’

Wop wops: If someone lives in the ‘wop wops’, they are ‘out in the sticks.’ Literally in the middle of nowhere.

Nah, you’re all good: I hear this expression a lot and it seems to have replaced ‘no worries’ here as a way of saying to someone that something they have either done or said is not a problem.

Yeah, nah: This is confusing, I grant you but it just means means ‘no’.

Egg: If someone is ‘such an egg’ it means that they’re a bit of a clown.

Chook: This is a chicken. Or it can be used as a term of endearment. It also often proceeds the word ‘old’ as a kind of affectionate insult to describe an elderly lady.

Tiki tour: Our equivalent would be ‘taking the scenic route.’

She’ll be right: Used to mean that everything will be ok.

Choice: This is used to mean ‘cool’.

Chur: Often paired with ‘bro’ this means something akin to ‘thanks’.

Sweet as: There is no answer to this unfinished simile. It simply means ‘great’ or ‘excellent’. Chuck a ‘bro’ on the end and you’ll fit right in.

Packing a sad: I love this expression. It means having a tantrum or as English people might say ‘throwing a wobbly.’

Whanau: This is a Māori word for family (pronounced ‘far-know’) but it is being increasingly used by European New Zealanders as well as Māori.

Kia Ora: No, not the fruit cordial we used to drink as kids in the 80s. This is one of the more familiar Māori words meaning ‘Hello’ or good day. I haven’t heard many European New Zealanders use this in conversation but it’s often used as a written greeting.

Aotearoa: You’ll hear this one a lot. It is a Māori word meaning ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ and an alternative name for New Zealand.

Got a favourite? Let me know!


One response to “Learning to speak Kiwi”

  1. Hokey Pokey is a name used in parts of the UK too as well as cinder toffee and honeycomb.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: