Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Language and Slang in New Zealand


New Zealand is part of the English-speaking world, but is a very isolated country. It is sparsely populated, mostly consisting of descendents of Europeans colonists, but native Maori culture is influential on the greater society. There are also some communities of Asians. English is the universal language in New Zealand, but many people speak Maori. New Zealand English is unique enough have its own publication of the Oxford New Zealand English Dictionary. If you are planning on relocating to New Zealand, you should do some research about language differences and slang.

One tip: when you are referring to a “bathroom,” people from New Zealand will automatically think of a room with a bath in it. You’ll have to ask for a “toilet” to be specific.

Never confuse a New Zealand accent with an Australian one, as they’ll often get offended. They also have different slang and word usage from Australians.

Here is a dictionary of some commonly used New Zealand English phrases:

Bach: Small holiday home

Beaut: Great; good fun

Biscuit: Cookie

Bob’s Your Uncle: Used as “There you go!”

Boot: Car trunk

Brekkie: Shortened form of “breakfast”

Bugger off: Go away

Bush: Forest

Candyfloss: Cotton Candy

Car Park: Parking lot

Chips: French fries

Choc-a-bloc: Filled up or overflowing

Choice!: Cool, awesome

Chrissy: Christmas

Chuffed: Pleased

Cotton Buds: Q tips

Cuz: Cousin

Dairy: Corner store; convenience store

Dole: Unemployment benefit

Dunny: Toilet/Bathroom

Fizzy: Soda pop

Flannel: Wash cloth

Flicks: Movies

Flog: Steal

Fringe: Bangs

Get off the Grass: “No way!”

Good on ya, mate!: “Good job!”

Greasies: Fish and chips

Gridiron: American football

Hard Case: Joker/Funny person

Home ‘n Hosed: Safe or completed successfully

Hottie: Hot water bottle

Ice Block: Popsicle

Jersey: Sweater

Judder Bar: Speed bump

Jumper: Woolen sweater

Kiwi: New Zealander

Kick the Bucket: To die

Lemonade: 7-Up

Lift: Elevator

Lolly: Candy

Loo: Bathroom

Motorway: Freeway/highway

Naff off!: “Get lost!”

Nought: Zero

Pavement: Sidewalk

Petrol: Gasoline

Piker: Someone who gives up easily

Pong: Bad smell

Push Bike: Bicycle

Rellies: Relatives

Sarnie: Sandwich

Shandy: Drink that consists of lemonade and beer

Skiting: Bragging

Sparkie: Electrician

Suss: To figure out

Thick: Dumb

Torch: Flashlight

Twink: White-out

Wally: Loser

Whinge: Complain

Yonks: Referring to a long time ago; ages

Here are some common Maori words and expressions:

Kia Ora: Hello (literally: good health)

Iwi: Maori tribe or people

Kai: Food

Pakeha: New Zealanders of European descent

Wharenui: Big house; meeting house

Whanau: A Maori family


5 thoughts on “Language and Slang in New Zealand

  1. Don’t forget the ever classic “sweet as” meaning that everything is OK, awesome…

    Chur chur 🙂

  2. Also do not forget to mention that New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is an official language in New Zealand. Many other countries around the world do not recognise Sign Language/s…



    As a New Zealander I can safely say that you can ignore most of these. The ones that were once part of our slang are hugely dated and the other 70% you can completely disregard. We aren’t idiots – as long as you are speaking english we will understand.

  4. As another New Zealander, i can say do not ignore these. They are not dated and are used everyday in everyday situations and are handy to know. those last two comments must be from a couple of drongos (there’s one for ya)

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