Beyond Words - Language Blog

New Zealand Slang

As an American living in New Zealand, it took some time to fully adjust to the Kiwi lifestyle. Learning to drive on the opposite side of the road (or wrong side, as I like to refer to it) and acquainting myself with the long list of slang/colloquialisms has gone a long way in helping me get to know and better understand my new home.

Even though Kiwis and Americans share a common language, after three months here, there are still moments when I listen to the radio and have no idea what the announcer is talking about. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, here is a list of expressions and vocabulary that will help you to fit in, and hopefully keep you from making any linguistic faux pas:

  • Ankle-biters: Children
  • Buttie: Sandwich made from buttered bread
  • Flat white: Similar to a café au lait but uses microfoam instead of steamed milk
  • Mate: Friend, buddy, pal
  • Mince: Ground meat
  • My shout: My treat
  • No joy: No luck
  • Oz: Australia
  • Pakeha: Maori word meaning a non-Maori person
  • Partner: Significant other. Typically someone will ask if you have a partner, versus asking if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Piss off: Go away! Shut-up
  • Rellies: Relatives
  • Root: Sexual intercourse
  • Sweet-as!: Cool! Awesome!
  • Take-aways: Establishments that sell take-away or to-go food
  • Toastie: Toasted sandwich
  • Tomato sauce: Ketchup ( Do not try asking for Ketchup. You will be met with alien looks.)
  • Zed: How Kiwis pronounce the letter “Z”

Don’t forget to order an ice-cream cone from one of the local fruit markets if you visit. It will be the best ice-cream you’ve ever tasted. Sweet-as!

Postcard: “Hands across the sea.” Made in Great Britain [ca 1910]. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand