10 Common Kiwi Words That Will Confuse You

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Written By Rachel Innes

Can you speak Kiwi?

NewZild. World famous for the haka, hobbits and heroic halfbacks.

Visitors love our Lord of the Rings landscapes, limitless adrenaline adventures and laid-back locals. They don’t always love our laid-back lexicon.

Tourists get confused with the way we crazy Kiwis merge and mispronounce vowels (pegs turn into pigs, packing sounds like pecking) and look bemused when we pepper conversations with strange colloquialisms (“Rattle yer dags”, “Get off the grass!” and “Bust a gut” are some of my favourites).

We also use a lot of Māori words and phrases (Kia Ora cuz, that kai really filled my puku!) and we tend to talk fast. (How are you doing? might sound like hwreding to a non-Kiwi ear).


So, if you’re planning on a visit to the land of the long white cloud, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Kiwi-speak.

  1. Cuz

Short for cousin, can refer to anyone vaguely familiar including the bank teller and bus driver. “Hey cuz”, “Cheers cuz!”

  1. Yeah, Nah

A noncommittal response (does it mean yes, does it mean no?) used when we don’t agree with something but feel too polite to say so.

For example, a friend might ask “Do you like my new orange hot pants?” You reply “Yeah, Nah, Yeah” – translation: “they’re hideous!”

  1. Cuppa

Means cup of tea, but could refer to any hot beverage. Often enjoyed on a smoko with a ciggie or a bikkie.

Tip: If you want to specify black tea try asking for Gumboot Tea (don’t worry this is not a drink made of boiled black rubber, just Kiwi for plain black tea).

  1. Kia Ora

Welcome or hello in Māori. It can also be used to say thanks or farewell.

  1. She’ll be right

Means everything is OK, often when it is not. Usually uttered when you’re doing something a bit dangerous or precarious as a hopeful exclamation rather than a statement of fact.

  1. Sweet as

Everything is good. Kiwis may add “as” to anything to add emphasis – “That’s cheap as!” “I’m tired as.” You get the idea.

  1. Togs

Kiwi for swimsuit. And flip-flops are jandals (not thongs – thongs are underwear on our side of the Tasman). Also, trousers are called pants and pants are most definitely not underwear.

  1. “Fush and chups”

Practically our national dish. The best way to tell a Kiwi and an Aussie apart is to get us to say “Fish and Chips.” If it sounds like “Feesh and Cheeps” you’re talking to an Australian, if it comes out more like “Fush and Chups” it’s a Kiwi you’re dealing with.

  1. Bugger/Buggered

Popularised by the   for Toyota, Bugger is now so ubiquitous that even your Nana might use it. It simply means dammit, as in “Bugger, I’ve lost my keys!”

Buggered is also fairly common and refers to something broken or tired.

  1. Onehunga, Whakatane, Te Puke

If you spend more than a day travelling in New Zealand, you’ll come across many Māori place names, which can be bit tricky to pronounce especially if you’ve never seen them before.


Make sure you can get from Whangarei to Whangamata without ending up in Whakatane by brushing up on some before you arrive.

Hot tip: “Wh” is generally pronounced “F” in Māori so Whakatane is said Fah-cah-tah-nay.