It happens to me everywhere I go. I’ll be having a conversation with some mates at the hostel and, forgetting I’m not in New Zealand, I’ll say something like…
“Yeah nah bro, I reckon that’s all good, cheap as for a mean as feed like that!”
And they’ll all stare at me in silence, as if I’m an alien speaking to them in Na’vi. And then one of them will go, “Sorry, what?”
Meanwhile the Aussie guys next to me are pissing themselves laughing.
I’ve since learned to go easy on the New Zealand slang while travelling, especially when I’m around non Kiwi folk, but this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s actually quite a struggle, and I still remember bunking with an Aussie in Colombia and both of us laughing at how nice it was to finally be able to speak normally with someone.
So, next time a Kiwi is in your dorm, prep yourself with this guide. In fact, bust out some of the New Zealand slang below and they’ll think you’re the coolest person alive. More importantly, if you plan on coming to New Zealand you’d do well to learn as many of these NZ slang words and phrases as possible.
Learning Kiwi slang isn’t easy, so we’ll start with 20 common words. Once you’ve learned them all, move on to the next section where I’ll teach you the good stuff. You guys are going to be speaking fluent Kiwi in no time!
Lesson 1: Some popular New Zealand slang words to start:
Kiwi – Can refer to either a New Zealander, or the country’s national bird. For the fruit, we say kiwifruit.
Jandals – Flip flops. e.g. Havaianas
Dairy – A convenience store, corner store, or mini supermarket.
Chilly bin – A cooler bin, used for keeping drinks cold.
The wops – Really far away, the middle of nowhere. e.g. she lives far away, out in the wops.
Macca’s – McDonald’s
Togs – Swimsuit
Bonnet & boot – Hood & trunk (of a car)
Scull – To drink a usually alcoholic drink in one go without stopping.
Buggered – Very tired
Fizzy drink – Soda
Mince – Ground beef
Hot chips – French fries
Kai – Maori word for food
Chocka Block – Crowded/busy
Pissed – Drunk
Cuppa – A hot drink, usually short for “cup of coffee” or “cup of tea”
Jumper – A jersey or sweatshirt
Angus – Someone with an anger problem
Hungus – Someone who eats too much
Easy enough? Cool. Now try wrap your head around these ones:
Lesson 2: Advanced Kiwi Slang Words & Phrases (for those who wanna get serious!)
When I’m with my friends I use this in almost every sentence. We use it in place of ‘man’ or ‘mate’ or ‘dude’. It’s not reserved for good friends, you can say it to anyone, like the mailman or a taxi driver. They’ll probably say it back to you.
Jack: Hey bro how’s it going?
John: I’m all good bro! Did you see Shortland Street last night bro? It was crazy bro!
This basically means ‘everything’s fine’ or ‘no problem’, and we also use it in place of ‘you’re welcome’ when someone says thank you.
Jack: I thought my car was going to break down but it was all good, thanks for waiting.
John: All good bro.
Means ‘no problem’, or sometimes can just mean a simple “OK”. Used similarly to ‘all good’.
Jack: Yo, we’re all going to Jen’s house to watch Gossip Girl and eat Toffee Pops. Gotta go gym first but I’ll pick you up at 7?
John: Sweet as (translation: OK).
This could be considered a shortened version of “far out” (or the F word, I’m actually not sure) which can be used to express both excitement and disappointment. The amount of excitement or disappointment you wish to express will depend on how long you hold the ‘faa’.
If you scratch a lotto ticket and win $2 you might go “Faaa, only $2”, but if you scratched it and won $20,000 you’d probably go “Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa $20,000!”
We commonly use the word “as” as an amplifier to the preceding adjective. For example, “cheap as” would translate to “really cheap”.
John: Bro, check out my new polka dot undies. Got them in Howick for 20 bucks.
Jack: Bro, that’s expensive as! (translation: that’s really f*cking expensive).
This is one of those Kiwi slang words with many meanings:
1. To amplify an adjective.
It’s hardout cold today! (translation: It is extremely cold today)
2. To express agreement to something very enthusiastically.
Jack: Bro, this restaurant is awesome as, we should come here every week.
John: Hardout! (translation: yes, we should!)
3. To describe something as awesome or amazing.
John: How was the movie?
Jack: It was hardout, bro! (translation: It was awesome, bro).
4. To describe someone as extremely talented/hardworking/successful.
John: Did you know Ben got 100% in every exam?
Jack: Man, that guy is a hardout! (translation: that guy works really hard).
Loosely translates to “No way” or “That’s not true”, but can be used in various different contexts.
Jack: Bro, I forgot my wallet. You’ll lend me 20 bucks though eh?
John: Not even! (translation: No, I wont.)
This can be combined with “Not even” and is used somewhat like an exclamation mark. It’s used quite sparingly, but if you manage to pull off the “Not even” + “Ow” combo as a foreigner, you will probably be made an honorary Kiwi.
Jack: Bro, how did you pass that exam, you must have cheated hardout!
John: Not even ow! (translation: Get the f**k outa here)
This has multiple meanings, so many that it would be pointless to explain them all here. In fact I’m not even sure I could explain them, as there is an acquired comfort in using this word and understanding all it’s uses. Nonetheless, I encourage foreigners to try as often as possible. Three of the most common meanings are:
1. To express thanks.
Hey bro, can you pass me that jug of water please? Shot. (translation: Thanks)
2. To express joy, similar to how you might use “Yuss!!”
John: Bro, Jen got us free VIP tickets for Miley Cyrus tonight!
Jack: Oh shot! (translation: That’s awesome!)
3. To express encouragement, or to say ‘good job’ or ‘well done’.
John: Hey bro, I finally passed my bikini waxing certification last night. Starting my new job tomorrow!
Jack: Shot bro! (translation: Well done!)
Jack: I’m hungry bro.
John: Alright, let’s go for a feed. Macca’s?
In many ways it is a synonym for the word “think”, for example instead of saying “I think so” you could say “I reckon”. However it has other meanings:
1. Used to express one’s opinion. For example, instead of saying “Do you think?” you would say “Do you reckon?”
John: Do you reckon if I buy Jen a box of Pineapple Lumps and then ask her on a date she will say yes?
Jack: Yeah, I reckon! (translation: yes, I think she will).
2. Used to agree enthusiastically to something.
John: I can’t believe Tom cheated on Jill for the 279th time!
Jack: I reckon! What a dick. (translation: I know! What a dick).
An adjective to describe something as really amazing or awesome.
Jack: Did you see that girl in the purple dress last night?
John: Yeah bro that girl was the meanest! (translation: that girl was extremely hot/amazing).
Jack: Did you like that Olsen twins movie we saw last week?
John: Yeah, it was pretty mean (translation: Yeah, it was quite good).
Means ‘a lot’ or ‘very’.
Jack: Man, I always see that girl there.
John: Yeah, I’ve seen her heaps too. She goes there heaps bro. (translation: Yeah, I’ve seen her a lot too. She goes there all the time).
Piece of piss
To describe something that’s very easy, similar to “piece of cake”.
Jack: Hey, I’m about to take my driving test. Is it hard?
John: Nah, piece of piss bro (translation: No, it’s very easy).
Taking the piss
An expression which means ‘to make fun of’ or to ‘mock’, or to not be taking something seriously. Not to be confused with “taking a piss”, which means to urinate.
Jack: I was gonna go out drinking with you guys tonight, but Jen got mad at me so I’m staying home.
John: What the f**k? Are you taking the piss? (translation: Are you being serious?)
On the piss
Jack: Man have you seen Melissa’s Instagram lately?
John: Bro she’s always on the piss eh???? (translation: she’s always out drinking, right?)
Yeah nah bro
Yeah nah is a tricky one to translate accurately. It basically means “No”, but it’s like a more polite version of no.
Jack: Hey man you wanna stay for dinner?
John: Yeaaaah nah bro, I gotta get home and study (translation: I’d like to [not really], but I can’t, gotta get home and study).
However, it can also be translated as simply “Ummm”, or perhaps as “Ummm yeah, but no”. Such as when you’re talking about a sensitive topic, or just need time to think.
Jack: Hey bro, I saw you and Jess go home together last night!
John: Yeah nah bro……how did your night go? (translation: Well, no, we didn’t, how did your night go?)
There’s no exact translation, so try to observe the different ways Kiwis use it before you start trying to use it yourself!
To the days
This is pinned to the end of a word or phrase, and means ‘extremely’ or ‘very’.
Jack: Did you see Tim got drunk again last night?
John: Bro, that guy’s an alcoholic to the days! (translation: That guy’s seriously an alcoholic).
Honest to who?
Loosely translates to “Really?” Often the response will be “Honest to G”, which I presume means Honest to God.
Jack: Bro, I won like $5,000 at the pokies last night.
John: Honest to who?
Jack: Honest to G O D!
Short for “Give us a”, which actually means “Give me a”.
Jack: Faaa, check this out, Jen posted a photo of herself on Instagram in a bikini.
John: Honest to who? Gizza look! (translation: Really? Give me a look!)
This is the Kiwi form of the verb ‘to treat’, such as treating someone to a meal or a drink.
Jack: Bro, I can’t come out tonight, I spent all my money on a pedicure.
John: It’s all good bro, Tim is shouting drinks tonight.
What a sad guy
This is said when someone does something super uncool.
Jack: Bro, when Tim was drunk as last night I put $500 of booze on his credit card.
John: What a sad guy! (translation: what a crappy thing to do)
Probably impossible to explain, but I will try. It has many different uses so you will need to listen carefully to the pitch, tone and context in which it’s used to decipher the meaning in each particular situation. Also note that the word is pronounced like the letter “A”, not the letter I.
1. Used on the end of a statement to solicit agreement from the other party. Similar meaning to “don’t you think?” or “isn’t it?”
Jack: It’s pretty hot today eh? (translation: It’s pretty hot today, isn’t it?)
John: Yeah bro, hardout. (translation: Yes, very).
2. Used to express disbelief and/or surprise. You would use a similar pitch and tone to when you say “Really??”.
Jack: Tim broke his leg at rugby last night and now he’s in the hospital.
John: Eh? (translation: Really!?)
3. Used to express confusion when you’re unsure of why something is happening or when things are not appearing as they should. When used in this context the “Aye” will typically be longer and more drawn out, usually in a slightly higher pitched voice.
Jack: Bro Mr Tupai said you have to go to his office after school because your exam was so crap.
John: Eeeeeeh? (translation: What the hell!?)
4. Used as a filler word, with no real meaning at all.
Jack: How was Jen’s cupcake party?
John: It was cool eh, I really enjoyed it.
While technically short for “cousin” this is mostly used as a term of friendship, but can also be used as just a casual way to address someone. Sometimes the longer form “cuzzy” is used.
Staff: “Sir, here’s your Big Mac combo, no pickle extra fries.”
Jack: “Oh, cheers cuz.” (translation: Thanks man)
Generally used in place of “cheers” or “thank you”, but in certain situations can also mean “OK/cool” or “No problem”. I’ve also heard people use it simply as a way to greet each other.
Jack: Saw you were running low bro so got you another beer.
John: Chur bro! (translation: Thanks man).
Can’t be bothered
Used when someone is too lazy or just simply doesn’t feel like doing something. Another variation of this is “can’t be stuffed”, which has the same meaning and is used in the same way.
Jack: Bro, your arms are looking kinda small you should come to the gym with us.
John: Nah, I can’t be bothered bro. (translation: No, I’m too lazy).
Simply means “good” or “cool” and is used similarly to “sweet as”.
John: Bro, Jen went to buy our movie tickets and the guy gave all of us free popcorn.
Jack: Oh choice! (translation: Oh that’s awesome).
This word can have two different meanings depending on the context:
1. To take care of a task that needs to be done or to sort something out.
John: You were supposed to get our rugby tickets sorted, suss it out bro! (translation: take care of it)
Jack: Sussed it out this morning bro! (translation: I sorted it out this morning)
2. To describe something as suspicious/suspect.
John: Bro, it’s all good, this guy said he’ll give us a ride into town.
Jack: Are you sure you wanna go with him? He looks kinda suss bro. (translation: he looks a bit suspicious/not right).
Loosely translates to “cool”, or “awesome”. Has quite a broad meaning and can be used to describe most things that you think are cool.
John: “Bro, check out my new iPhone cover, it’s got Kim Kardashian on the back.”
Jack: “Gizza look. Oh bro, that is mint.” (translation: Give me a look. Oh man, that is awesome.)
Can simply mean “to leave” or can also mean to “run away”.
John: Bro I saw this guy trying to break into my car.
Jack: Did you catch him?
John: Nah, he gapped it. (translation: no, he ran away)
Stink can be used on its own to express unhappiness with something, or can also be used as an adjective to describe something/someone as really lame.
Really good word to pair with “Faaa”.
Jack: Did you see the Easter Show got cancelled?
John: Faaa stink as! (Translation: Oh no that sucks!)
Jack: I was supposed to go for get milkshakes with Tim, but he cancelled on me last minute.
John: What a stink dude! (translation: What a bad person).
Jack: Bro I heard you got like 3 girlfriends now wassup?
John: Nah, not even, I’m not a skux dude like you eh! (translation: no way, I’m not as cool as you!)
Chocka means something is very full or busy. If something is extremely busy, you can use the full term “Chocka Block”.
Jack: Yo, I heard the supermarket was pretty chocka today? (translation: I heard the supermarket was quite busy today?)
John: Bro, chocka block! (Man, it was super busy!)
Kia kaha translates to “Be strong” in Maori. It is a phrase Kiwis say to each other during hard times, periods of grieving, or when sharing support to each other. For example during natural disasters, tragic events, or the All Blacks losing in a World Cup final. You will see Kiwis saying to each other, kia kaha.
We are all grieving today during this difficult time. Kia kaha, New Zealand (stay strong, New Zealand).
This can be used as both a question and a response. As a question, it loosely means “Are you serious?” As a response it means, “Yes, I’m serious.”
It can also be used as a way to answer something with an enthusastic yes.
Jack: Dude I can bench 200kg now!
John: Straight up? (translation: Really?)
Jack: Straight up. (Yes, really).
Jack: If you were given the chance, would you date Barbara Streisand?
John: Straight up! (translation: Definitely!)
The reason I’ve included this word is because while it might be vulgar in some countries, it is not in contemporary New Zealand. In fact, it is often used a term of endearment between friends, and probably on the same level as “douchebag” or maybe “dickhead” when using it as an insult.
If you hear this in the streets in New Zealand, do not be alarmed! It is quite normal and nothing to worry about 🙂
Jack: Hey man do you know Sara’s new boyfriend Joey?
John: Yeah, he’s a good cunt actually (translation: yeah, he’s actually a nice guy).
Generally if you hear this phrase between friends it’s okay, but if it’s said to you by a stranger, you’ve done something wrong. You might hear this at the bar once or twice on a heavy weekend. It’s what Kiwis say when they want to punch you in the face.
Jack: *pours water down John’s shirt*
John: What the f***! You wanna hiding?! (translation: You want me to smash your face in!!?)
This is actually a Samoan word which means foreigner, but you’ll hear it in New Zealand quite often. It’s normally used as a friendly term to describe white people/caucasians.
Jack: Hey, what do you think of that new guy Shane on our rugby team?
John: I’ll be honest, he runs pretty fast for a palangi!
Bring a plate
This is one of those New Zealand sayings that’s often misunderstood. When Kiwis invite you to dinner and ask you to bring a plate, it’s not because they don’t have enough kitchenware. It means they want you to bring a dish, like a lasagne or a cheesecake. It’s basically our way of saying it’s a pot luck dinner.
I had to include this one, because it would break my heart if you were one of those foreigners who hilariously turned up to a dinner party with just an empty plate! (happens often).
John: Hey, dinner party at my house on Friday, you free?
Anita: Yes! I’m coming.
John: Alright, don’t forget to bring a plate!
Anita: Oh, you don’t have enough plates?
John: No I mean BRING SOME FOOD omg! 😀
This phrase was born from a viral Youtube video, which literally means “next minute” or “suddenly”.
John: What happened to that girl at the bar last night? I thought you guys were getting along?
Jack: Bro, everything was good, then we took a shot, nek minnit she was drunk as! (translation: suddenly she was extremely drunk).
This phrase was born from a clip on a TV police show that quickly went viral. It’s used as a slang way to say “C’mon!” when someone gives an excuse or says something soft.
Make sure you emphasise the G at the start!
John: Bro what happened to you last night? You said you were coming to town with us!
Jack: Sorry bro I stubbed my toe and it was too sore to walk.
John: Aww gummon!!
Well, that pretty much covers it! Hopefully now if we ever cross paths on the road you’ll find it a little easier for us to understand each other.
Oh, and a special thanks to all the Canadians, Americans and Europeans I’ve met who didn’t understand a word I was saying. You were the inspiration for this post.
Been to New Zealand? What other New Zealand slang phrases did you hear that you didn’t understand? If you’re a Kiwi, what did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
Heading to New Zealand? Follow these tips:
- For affordable accommodation in New Zealand, I highly recommend using Airbnb. This will allow you to get both private rooms and fully furnished apartments at rates far less than hotels and some hostels, especially in the bigger cities. You can get $25 of free Airbnb credit using this link.
- I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance, particularly if you plan on partaking in the outdoors or road tripping up and down the country. For a beginner’s guide to travel insurance, why you need it, and how to get it, check out my post Travel Insurance 101: Everything You Need To Know.
- If it’s your first time visiting New Zealand, my buddy Will at The Broke Backpacker has an epic New Zealand travel guide on his blog. Check it out, it should have all the information you’re going to need to see our fine country on a healthy budget!