My Homestead

A Glossary of New Zealand and Tramping Phrases



This page is a list of New Zealand words and phrases. Most of these are related to tramping but I will throw in a random selection of Kiwi slang and Maori (in red) words. Remember that many Maori names are made up of shorter words. For example, Wainuiomata translates as the big water of the headland (or the big water of Mata) from wai=water; nui=big; o=of; mata=either headland or the name Mata

For more on the Maori language have a look at:

afternoon tea a short break from work in the afternoon
ahi fire
All Blacks Our national rugby team famous for the haka and silver fern.
All Whites Our national soccer team
ao cloud
Aotearoa the original Maori name for NZ - "land of the long white cloud"
ara path or road
aroha love
Aussie an Australian
awa river or valley
bach small holiday house, usually at the beach
bench kitchen counter
benched where a track has been cut into a hillside
billy a pot used for cooking
billy tea tea (the drink not the meal) made in a billy
biscuit cookie
biv or bivvy short for bivouac: a primitive shelter, usually sleeping 2 or 3
blaze an old and outdated technique of marking tracks by cutting bark from a tree
bloke man
bonk sexual intercourse
bonnet car hood
boot car trunk
buggered exhausted
burn an area cleared of vegetation by fire
bush general term for the outdoors
bush shirt a kind of woollen outdoors shirt
cage a metal box dangling from a wire rope across a river
cairn a pile of rocks marking a track, route or fork in terrain without trees
chook slang for chicken
cocky a farmer, esp. cow-cocky
col A low point in a mountain range providing passage, a saddle or pass.
cop you later until we meet again
crackers crazy
creek a small stream
crib the South Island equivalent of "bach"
crook to be ill or sick
crush zone a region where rocks have been crushed by fault activity resulting in a mixture of small angular stones in clay
cuppa a cup of tea or coffee
dag humorous person
dairy a small shop that sells dairy products and other incidentals
disc or disk: a trail marker - the modern trend is to plastic triangles (you also may see older metal discs or venetian blind offcuts). A column of three discs marks a track junction.
DOC Department of Conservation - the custodians of our wilderness areas. This government department is charged with administration of national, maritime and forest parks, other reserves and protected areas covering almost one third of New Zealand. It maintains amenities in these public lands, such as tracks, bridges and huts. DOC is also active in conservation programmes for native wildlife. Field Centres are scattered throughout the country and provide maps, leaflets and information
docking removing the tails of lambs
doughnut a kind of cake filled with cream and jam, not an American donut
dunny toilet
Enzed New Zealand, i.e. N.Z.
face a steep and generally featureless hillside with no significant spurs or creeks
flats flatlands; usually created by a river and may be covered in either grass or bush.
gidday hello (good day), also spelt as g'day.
gidday cobber hello friend
give it heaps try hard
glacier A large, deep volume of ice fed by snowfalls on an alpine ridge or basin and descending in a gradual flow down a valley. Aside from the famous Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, which are easily accessible to tourists, there are a multitude of glaciers in alpine areas. Take care near them - only experienced parties should venture onto them.
Godzone New Zealand as in "God's Own"
gorge a narrowing of the watercourse - associated with steep rock walls, pools which require swimming or falls to be sidled
graded where a track has a fairly uniform gradient
Great Walks A number of tracks that need booking in advance (Milford, Routeburn, etc.) due to high demand. You have to keep to the schedule (no side-trips!) but to compensate, the huts and tracks are of a high quality.
grotty run-down/worn-out/dirty (the unfortunate condition of a few huts)
gut a narrow and steep watercourse or dry gully
haka a traditional Maori dance with various words and actions. The haka that the All Blacks perform is further explained in Ka Mate - Haka of the All Blacks.
hangi Maori underground cooking pit and the meal cooked in it
hau wind
hui meeting
hut tramping accommodation, ranging from poky 4-6 bunk sheds to relatively palatial 40 bed houses. See A Selection of New Zealand Huts.
ice block popsicle
ika fish
iti small
jandals flip-flops, i.e. kind of footwear
jumper sweater or pull-over
kai food
kainga village
karakai prayer
karanga call for visitors to come onto a marae
karst A limestone landscape that has been eroded by slight acidity in water. This acidity is produced by decaying forest matter and creates dramatic natural caves, tunnels, arches, overhangs, underground rivers and falls, and a dangerous, potholed landscape.
kaumatua Maori elders
kete traditional basket made of plaited flax
kia ora hi or hello
kip to sleep, especially a nap
Kiwi New Zealander or flightless bird native to New Zealand
knackered exhausted
kumara sweet potato
lavatory toilet
lawyer a forest vine with sharp, inwardly pointing thorns. Its Maori name is tataramoa.
leatherwood an alpine shrub with tough, springy wood, its leaves are leathery and serrated (luckily not sharp).
lolly a sweet
long drop a toilet. Usually a cubicle over a large pit in the ground but some busy huts have plastic structures that are helicoptered out when full.
loo toilet
mana status, esteem, prestige or authority
manaia bird or lizard form used in Maori carvings
manga branch, stream or tributary
manu bird
Maori the indigenous people of New Zealand
marae sacred grounds around a meeting house
mata headland
mate friend
maunga mountain
mere greenstone war club
metal road gravel road
Milo a hot chocolate drink
moana sea
moko a tattoo (actually incised with a chisel rather than pricked with a needle)
morning tea a short break from work in the morning
motu island
mountain oysters testicles from castrated lambs
muri end
mutu end, finished
netball basketball-like sport mainly played by women
nui big
o the place of
O.E. Overseas Experience - a prolonged period travelling/working/vacationing overseas
Oz Australia
pa a fortified village
pad the ground print of a trail - thus a track may be well or lightly 'padded'
pae ridge or resting place
paddock farm field
Pakeha a person of non-Maori (usually European) descent
patu a small fighting club
paua abalone
pavlova kind of dessert
pikelet small pancake
pissed drunk
pissed off annoyed
pissing down raining hard
pit a sleeping bag
poi balls on string used by women in dance
point a location on the map marked with a height rather than a name, e.g. "at point 800m the track turns to the north".
Pom Englishman
possie position as in "there is a good possie for camping just at the bush line"
pounamu greenstone (jade)
powhiri welcome ceremony on a marae
pub bar (short for public house)
puffed tired or out of breath - "I was puffed by the top of Shoulder Knob"
puke hill
puku stomach
puna spring or water
punga tree fern
queue line of people
rangi sky or heavens
ridge the highest ground between two major stream catchments and connecting several high points (see also spur)
roa long
roto lake
route a feasible way between two points but may not be well marked or easy to follow
rua two or hole
rucksack backpack
saddle a low section in a ridge or spur often giving easier access from one catchment to another
scroggin or scrogum: a mixture of peanuts, raisins, broken chocolate, pumpkin seeds, beef jerky and other goodies eaten to keep energy levels up during tramping. Also known as gorp by Americans.
scrub bush composed of small trees
shanks' pony walking
sheila woman
sidle to traverse across a hillside or navigate around an obstacle
silver fern an national sporting emblem taken from the tree fern
singlet sleeveless undershirt
skivvy kind of shirt
slip the remains of a landslide
smoko a short break from work, e.g., 5-15 minutes
spaniard a sub-alpine plant with sharp bayonet-like leaves (thankfully not common). Its Maori name is taramea.
spot on okay
spur an offshoot of a ridge running down to a valley
standard a metal fence post used to mark a trail
stuffed exhausted
supper late evening meal/snack
survival bag large, tough orange plastic bags available from visitor centres and outdoor equipment stores. These can be used as pack liners, or climbed inside as emergency shelter.
sussed understood
swanny a warm and wind-resistant shirt made of compressed wool yarn by Swandri
tahi single, one
taiaha long wooden spear
talus scree or loose rubble
tane man
taonga highly treasured or sacred objects
tapu sacred or forbidden
taramea spaniard
tataramoa bush lawyer
Tararuas a common name for the Tararua Ranges. This is Maori for twin peaked or cleft. The most likely derivation is a horny Maori explorer who saw the Tararua Peaks and named the range after his wives genitals.
tarn a small alpine lake, often unnamed and located in the heads of valleys or level sections of ridges.
te the
terrace a raised flat area usually with a well-defined edge
tiki a Maori figurine often worn on a necklace
tomo cave
tops used to refer to terrain above the bushline (this may be alpine)
tor an isolated natural column of rock
torch flashlight
track or trail a well padded route commonly kept clear with good marking and bridges over major streams.
tram-line a bush-logging tramway or the remains of its trackbed and rails.
tramper a mad bloke or blokes (including sheilas) who likes wandering into the bush.
tree fern a large fern - up to 3 metres (12 feet) - with a silver back to its fronds. The Maori name is punga.
true left left when facing downstream or down a ridge, eg. "the track follows the true left of the river"
true right right when facing downstream or down a ridge, eg. "the track is sheltered from southerlies on the true right of the ridge"
tucker food
ute pickup truck, abbreviation. of "utility vehicle"
verge a grass strip at the side of a road
wahine woman
wai water
waiata action songs, chants
Wainuiomata a town near Wellington (over a small range of hills from the harbour) and my birthplace. Its meaning is 'the big water of Mata' and is pronounced y-new-e-o-ma-ta.
waka canoe
Wellington a duke (the Duke of Wellington); a rubber calf-length boot commonly used by NZ farmers; the capital city of NZ (my hometown!)
wero challenge
whanau extended family
whanga a bay or inlet
whare house
whenua land or country
windfall a tree that has fallen over the track
windthrow a tree branch that has fallen over the track
wops or wopwops: rural areas
yank-tank large American automobile
zed the last letter of the alphabet
zigzag or switchback; where the track moves left and right down a slope - easier to travel but longer than a direct route.
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