Kiwi - Words & Phrases
Words and expressions commonly used in New Zealand with their equivalent definition. Many words and phrases listed here are common to both New Zealand, Great Britain and Australia, and I suspect their true origins are now somewhat confused, however, it is designed as a helpful insight to folk from the USA who often don't understand what we are talking about! These words and phrases have been gleaned from many sources and some contributors are listed at the end (and occasionally scattered throughout depending on how much time I have (which generally isn't much), and what mood I'm in . If you know any words or phrases that have been missed, please let me know. (If you don't want credit for any inclusions, let me know that as well)
ads: TV commercials, adverts
A & P Show: usually a 3 or 4 day event where farmers strut their stuff and win prizes for best cow, largest onion, best pikelet etc. Often has sideshows for the townies, with ferris wheels, dodgems and such like. (A&P = Agricultural & Pastoral)
arse: rear end, butt
bach: small holiday home, pronounced "batch"
beaut: great; good fun; "that'll be beaut mate"
bit of a dag: hard case; comedian; joker
bloke: usually a man, and often used when referring to a stranger as in; "There's this bloke down the road who sells greasies from his pie-cart for $1 a bag, which is much cheaper than that bloke who has a shop", or used when referring to someone you like, as in; "That bloke, Joe Blow, is a really nice guy once you get to know him".
blow me down: expression of surprise, as in; "Well! Blow me down, I didn't know that."
bludge: to sponge off others; as in "dole bludger"
bonk: to have sex with
bonnet: car hood
boohai: awry; out of the way non-existant place. As in "up the boohai shooting pukeko's with a long-handled shovel": said in response to "Where are you going?", and meaning either "Mind your own business" or "I'm just wandering around". Or "up the boohai" (out of place; awry)
(The correct spelling for "boohai" was kindly supplied by Mr Holden of Takapuna Grammer)
boot: car trunk
box of budgies: cheerful, happy, very good
boxing day: the day after Christmas Day. This word comes from the custom which started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago: churches would open their 'alms boxe' (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas. The tradition continues today.
boy-racer: Young hoon in fast car with unbelievably loud stereo!
brassed off: disappointed, annoyed
brickie: bricklayer. From JT
bugalugs: a bit like "mate" as in "how's it going bugalugs"
bugger all: not much, very little; as in "I know bugger all"
bugger off: piss off, shove off, get out
bum: rear end, butt
bun-fight: social gathering with food
bun in the oven: pregnant (also see)
bush: small and large trees and native plants densely packed together - sort of like a small forest.
bust a gut: make an intense effort
cackhanded: left handed, southpaw
car park: parking lot
caravan: trailer, mobile home
cardy: woollen button-up-the-front jersey (also cardie)
carked it: died, kicked the bucket
chips: french fries
cheers: goodbye or thanks or good luck. From JT
chemist: pharmacy, drug store. Also a euphemism for druggist.
cheerio: good bye
chilly bin: sealable, usually polystyrene insulated box, for keeping beer & food cold
chips: french fries
chippy: builder, carpenter
choc-a-block: full to overflowing
chocolate fish: a chocolate covered marshmallow fish. Also frequently given (literally or figuratively) as a reward for a job well done; as in "Good on ya, mate. You deserve a chocolate fish". From JT
choice: very good
chuffed: pleased; as in "he was dead chuffed"
chunder: to vomit
cods wollop: untrue statement or remark is referred to as a "load of lod cods wollop".
colly wobbles: a feeling of nausea usually associated with nervousness; as in "bungee jumping gave me a dose of the colly wobbles"
corker: very good
cotton buds: Q-tips
cracker: very good. See also wee cracker
crib: small holiday home
crikey dick!: gosh! wow!
crisps: potato chips
crook: sick, unwell
cuppa: cuppa tea, cuppa coffee, cuppa milo
cuz: as in male or female cousin
dag: hard case; joker; comedian, as in "Joe Blow's a bit of a dag isn't he?" "A bit of a dag mate! - He's the whole sheep's arse!" (Perhaps you have to be a Kiwi to appreciate that one)
dairy: "corner" store originally only selling milk, bread, papers, convenience foods and dairy produce, and until the past decade or so, the only shop allowed to open 7 days a week. Still is the only shop allowed to open on Christmas day and Good Friday, for a few hours, and without a special licence.
ding: a small dent in a vehicle; as in "the prang caused a bit of a ding"
dole: unemployment benefit; income support for the unemployed
doing the ton: Driving really, really fast! but corrected by Phil Lyall as "Doing 100mph" (and I agree, although only us "oldies" would remember the thrill of the possibility your car could actually go that fast!)
dodgy: bad, unreliable, spoiled; as in "that fish is a bit dodgy". From JT
dreaded lurgy: alternative name for the flu or a head cold; used as an excuse for not going to work, as in "I can't come in today because I have the dreaded lurgy". Also slang for venereal diseases.
dressing gown: bathrobe
dunny: toilet, bathroom, lavatory
entree: appetizer or hors d'oeurve. Memories of limp lettuce & shrimp smothered with a disgustingly pink sauce always come to mind here. Thank goodness the Kiwi taste buds have finally "grown up"
eh: pronounced as you would the letter "a" and often used at the end of sentences when expecting a response to a statement - it is not spoken as a question. i.e. "This would be a better gift eh", instead of saying "Do you think this would be a better gift"? Using it this way has become an everyday part of our conversation. It is also often used as a substitute for "pardon"? or "what"? i.e. "eh"? - but neither "what"? nor "eh"? are really acceptable and you would probably get a lengthy lecture about polite language if you tried using it too often (you would from me anyway!) Suggested by Marlene
fagged out: see knackered
fancy: hanker after somebody
fanny: A warning to Americans, from an American, Jody Tompson : take care how you use this phrase in New Zealand! A "fanny" refers to female genetalia; fanny is not the same as bottom!
fizzy: soda pop
finger stalls: back seats at the movie theatre, where adolescents take their girlfriends (not to watch the movie!). Although these days they don't necessarily bother with the back seats!
flannel: wash cloth
flash: sensational or "thats flash" meaning it looks really good.
flicks: movies, picture theatre
flog: steal, nick
footpath: pavement or sidewalk
fortnight: two consecutive weeks, derived from 14 days (nights)
french letter: condom
frock tart: without the persistance of Laura Straub the meaning of this phrase would have remained a mystery. Quote: Its TV/Movie industry slang (and it is Kiwi!) for someone who works on/designs/sews the costumes. The term came from a disclaimer at the end a rather costume intense version of 'Xena: Warrior Princess'. It read: "No frock tarts were killed during the production of this motion picture, however, many wished they had been"
gas guzzler: large car, usually associated with older USA imports
gawk / gawking: stare at; take a look at. As in "What are you gawking at!?" or "Take a gawk at this!"
get off the grass: exclamation of disbelief; equivalent to "stop pulling my leg", "get outta here", and "no way"
gimme: abbreviation for "give me..."
give your ferret a run: have sex
gizza: abbreviation for "give us a..."
going bush: become reclusive. And expanded by Jonathan:- To take off for the bush and live for an extended period to "get away from it all".
good on ya, mate!: congratulations, well done
greasies: common term for fish and chips, probably because they usually are! (greasy that is)
ground floor: first floor. Very confusing for Kiwi visitors to the States! When using lifts (elevators) we are always one floor out!
gumboots: rubber boots, wellingtons, wellies
guts for garters: in big trouble; as in "I'll have your guts for garters!"
hard case: joker; comedian
hard yakka: hard work, associated with labouring
heaps: general expression to mean a lot, as in "miss you heaps", or try hard; "give it heaps"
hissy fit: throwing a tantrum when things you don't get your way or when someone does something to offend you. From Jenni with thanks.
hokey pokey: 'sea foam' candy
home 'n hosed: safe, completed successfully
hoon: usually associated with young adults, fast cars, loud stereos and alcohol
hooray: the Kiwi "Goodbye"
hosing down: raining heavily
hottie: hot water bottle
hunky dory: or honky dory: everything's fine, as in "my life is hunky dory"
ice block: popsicle
jandal: thongs, flip-flops
judder bar: speed bump
jumper: woollen sweater
Kiwi: New Zealander
kiwi: an endangered flightless bird native to New Zealand
kiwifruit: hairy skinned fruit with lime green flesh (formerly known as Chinese gooseberry) and about to be promoted to the unsuspecting consumer as a "Zespri", of all names!
kick the bucket: die, cark it
knackered: stuffed; fagged out; rooted, as in "I am knackered"; "that bike is knackered" and surplus farm animals go to the "Knackers Yard"! (This word has MANY uses - few of them being optimistic!) From PN
L&P: fizzy soda water, Lemon & Paeroa (L&P); originally lemon flavoured spring water from the town of Paeroa, but this is no longer the case.
main: primary dish of a meal
Maori: indigenous people of New Zealand. Phil Lyall also pointed out that this word translates to "The People". I personally wouldn't know, but I'm sure we'll both be corrected if it's wrong :-)
mate: buddie (common term, and can be used even with strangers) as in "how's it going mate" for "how are you", but it is NOT used to the same extent as spoken in Australia where every second word seems to be "mate".
metal road: a country road (usually) with a gravel or shingle surface
morris club: a very exclusive group or club of New Zealand males who call each other "Morris", and in doing so it can cause a great deal of confusion to outsiders when they greet one another by the same name; as in "How's it going Morris?" replied with "Good thanks Morris, and you?" Membership is by invitation only.
naff off: get lost!
nana: female grandparent
nandy: MY male grandparent
netball: game somewhat similar to basketball
pack a sad: become morose, ill-humoured, moody. Also suggested as meaning "broken or died" i.e. the fridge "packed a sad"
pakeha: non-Maori person
panel beater: auto body shop
pie cart: affection term for a road-side or side-show food seller's converted mobile caravan, from which you can buy predominantly fast food take-aways such as pies, burgers, hot-dogs, fish and chips and such-like tasty treats.
piece-of-piss: easy as in "that was a piece of piss to make".
pike out: to give up when the going gets tough
pikelet: small pancake often served with jam and whipped cream
piker: one who gives up easily (see pike-out)
pinky: little finger
pinky bar: a chocolate-covered marshmallow confection
pissed: drunk, inebriated
pissed-off: angry, as in "I'm really pissed off!"
pissing down: raining heavily
piss around: waste time or effort in a futile manner a.k.a. fart about
piss-up: social gathering with alcohol
plod: friendly term for local policeman
pong: bad smell
power cut: outage
postal code: zip code
pony tail: as in hair tied at the back of one's head
pram: baby carriage, stroller
prang: minor vehicle accident, or a major one as in "that was one hell of a prang"
pub: bar, hotel were liquor is served
puckeroo: Something that is broken, buggered, rooted or otherwise disfunctional. From Grant but with this addition from Jeff Law:- As a matter of interest, the correct spelling of 'Puckeroo' is, according to Reed's Maori Dictionary, 'Pakaru' meaning 'Break' or 'Broken'. I pondered over changing the spelling to the correct format, but decided against it, because the correct spelling bares little resemblance to the pronunciation as it stands today and the change could have caused even more confusion ;-)
push bike: bicycle
pushing up daisies: dead and buried
quite nice: a term used when you can't really think of anything better to say ; as in "her hat is quite nice", and you often mean the opposite!
rack off: go away (angry), piss off
raining cats & dogs: raining heavily!
randy: horny, feeling sexy
rark up: give somebody a good telling off
rattle your dags: hurry up; get a move on. And from Jeff Law...The expression 'Rattle your dags' reputedly refers to a somewhat mucky sheep 'rattling it's dags (dried excretia hanging from the wool)' when running!
rellies: family, relatives
root: to have sex. A warning to folk from the USA! - A female visitor from the US has this to say... My first time in NZ I made the unfortunate mistake of listing off my hobbies to a family that had me over for tea.... among my hobbies? "I like to root for the football team!" (one of the boys said, "What, the WHOLE team??") Credit for this listing is on the page - but I'm not saying where!
ring: phone somebody; as in "I'll give him/her/them a ring"
rubbish: trash or garbage; as in "should I throw this in the rubbish?"
scull: drink beer rapidly
serviette: A napkin made of either fabric or absorbent paper, and used to wipe hands & mouth at tea. From JT
sellotape: scotch tape / cellotape
shandy: drink made with lemonade and beer
she'll be right: not a problem, it'll be O.K.
shippie: prostitute "working" the ships docked at our international ports
shorts: clips from up-coming movies
shufti: as in "Take a Shufti at this, mate", meaning "have a look at this". From Jeff Law with thanks.
skiting: bragging; showing off
sickie: as in "Throw a sickie":- to take time off work "officially" for illness, but more likely for a fun day! From Peter
skint: short of money
squiz: as in "Have a squiz":- to take a look at something; "Giz a Squiz":- ask for a look at something. Also from Peter
smoko: break, rest period
snarky: mixture of sarcastic and nasty
snotty: snooty, ill-humoured, packing a sad
sook: kindly description of someone who is being silly, or behaving like a softy or scaredy cat. As in:- "you're being a sook"... "just a big sook" and so on... More often than not the phrase is used as a term of endearment. Suggested by Pam.
spew: to throw up
sparrow fart: very early in the morning - the crack of dawn. From Niki
spinner: usually used to describe a female who is a little flakey/stupid (an air-head), as in "she's a real spinner!". From Niki. And as suggested by Jonathan:- Someone who tells untrue stories when they're "Spinning a bullshit yarn"
spit the dummy: to throw a tantrum or get mad. From Niki
sprog: a child
sticking plaster: band-aid
sticky tape: cellotape / sellotape / scotch tape
stirrer: trouble-maker, agitator
strapped for cash: short of money
strewth: honestly, expletive showing frustration. Expanded upon by J Witherow as follows: "Strewth is an expletive and also slang for honestly. But it's my understanding that it's derived from the old phrase 'God's Truth'. Which, when run together, is ... s'truth!" Makes sense! (I agree)
strop: go for a strop, go for a burn, speed with reckless disregard
stubby: small bottle of beer
stuffed: really tired. From JT
stupid as a two bob watch: used to describe a person who behaves irrationally
suck the kumura: to die or otherwise cease
sunday driver: Driving really, really slow
super loo: massive automated public toilet complex. From JT
suss: to figure out
tata: goodbye, usually when speaking to a child
take-aways: New Zealand term for "take-outs" or food "to go".
take the piss: to ridicule
take a hike: Expression of anger, as in; "Go away!" "Get lost!"
tasty cheese: sharp cheddar cheese
tea: dinner - generic name for evening meal
tea towel: dish rag
tiki tour: roundabout way to get somewhere; scenic tour
tinned goods: canned goods
togs: swimsuit, bathing suit
tomato sauce: catsup
trots: horse racing with a buggy
trots: diaorrhoea as in "having a dose of the trots"
TT2: am I the only one who remembers TT2's? (Tip Top Iceblocks)
two sammies short of a picnic: used to describe a person who is a "bit thick".
up the duff: pregnant
verge: grassy area on the side of the road, bern
vegemite: spread for toast or bread. Indescribable, but missed by many expat Kiwi's. Bill Tabb describes it as... "A spread the color of dark molasses, the consistency of cold honey and the flavor of yeasty soy sauce. A flavor that is acquired, and quite good on warm soft pretzels here in California." (Actually, it's a good description!)
walkshorts: dressy shorts for men
wally: clown, loser
wardrobe: clothes closet
wee cracker: From Keith Goetzman, with thanks. "A Kiwi mystified me with this one morning while I was tramping at Nelson Lakes." "Wee cracker of a day, isn't it?"
wet blanket: Someone who spoils the fun of others; someone who doesn't get into the "swing" of things, particularly at a social occasion.
what are ya!: "Are you mad?" or "You're taking the piss!" And as suggested by Jonathan it implies doubt about "manhood" when a male shows fear. As in:- "What are ya! ... Pussy?"
wobbly (pack a wobbly): become angry, get snotty
wop-wops: out of the way location
yonks: forever, a long time ago, ages; as in "I haven't seen them in yonks".
yarn: spin a "tall story", tell a joke
yack: general conversation held between friends; as in "have a yack".
yoo-hoo: Hello, I'm here. Can I come in?
you ain't wrong: that's right, yes
you can't help bad luck: contrary to the wording, the phrase quite often means congratulations!, also a dismissive phrase for "too bad" or "who cares"
zed: Z; zee; the last letter of the alphabet.
Jonathan | Grant | Peter | Niki | Jackie Nidd | Paul Nankivell | Jody Tompson | Jeff Hayes | Laura Straub | Tricia Hague-Blackford | Tracy & Possum | Keith Goetzman | Ruth Thorne | Ken Collie | Phil Lyall | J. Witherow | Bill Tabb | Jeff Law | Jenni | Tress | Bob Pearson | Mandy O'Callaghan | Michelle Walton | Marlene Woodhead | Sandra | Pam Kimmel |