new-zealand-slang

36 New Zealand Slang Words

You’re in New Zealand. You feel like you are doing well in English class, you’re even confident that you’ve achieved an advanced level of English.

Then you venture out to a café to talk with the locals and you realize you do not understand most of what they’re saying!

Has this happened to you? If so, you’re not alone! Learning the slang of a language is one of the more confusing parts of learning to actually speak to real people. 

But we’ve got your back. Check out this post to learn 36 helpful and well used Kiwi slang words to help you sound like a true local in New Zealand.

Contents

36 Must-know New Zealand Slang Words

Slang words are very casual words that are used by certain groups of people. British people, for example, might say “cheers” when they’re saying goodbye, but Americans prefer “see ya.”

Understanding the local slang will make it easier for you to have conversations with the local people. Learning slang words is also a fun way to understand a new culture better.

But because so many countries speak English, English slang words differ a lot around the world.

New Zealand was a British colony with the official languages ​​being British English and Māori, which is the language of the indigenous people of the islands.

While New Zealand and Australian slang features a lot of crossover and the locals typically don’t have a problem understanding each other, New Zealand has some fun slang words of its own.

So if you’re interested in sounding more local in New Zealand, learning the Kiwi English slang words will do the trick.

1. Kiwi (New Zealander, Bird or Fruit)

The word “kiwi” is a Māori word, and has three meanings in New Zealand:

  • A New Zealander,
  • New Zealand’s iconic bird,

Typically, when you hear a New Zealander talking about a Kiwi, unless the conversation is about native animals of New Zealand, they are talking about another New Zealander.

And no, for the record, New Zealanders did not name themselves after the world-famous fruit. New Zealanders are proud of their fuzzy, flightless, nocturnal, endemic kiwi bird so much that they named themselves after it—the fruit was actually named later on!

When and why New Zealanders started calling themselves Kiwis is not well understood, but they will always say it with pride.

Example sentences:

“I met some Kiwis over the weekend.”

“There are three kiwis on this island.”

2. Kia Ora (Hello)

This is a formal, casual and polite way to say hello. This is not slang, as it comes from the native Māori language, but you will hear it as a greeting in New Zealand a lot even when the rest of the conversation is in English.

Example sentence:

“Kia ora! How are you today?”

3. Bro (Friend)

“Bro” is a shortened form of “brother” but used in a more casual sense toward friends in the same way Australians would use “mate.” It’s basically is a term of affection used between friends.

Example sentences:

“These are my bros.”

“How are you doing, bro?”

4. Arvo (Afternoon)

A shortened word for the afternoon. “Arvo”—sometimes spelled “Avo” in text language—is shared with Australian slang.

Example sentence:

“What are the plans this arvo?”

5. Heaps (Lots)

While heaps is not technically a slang word and is actually an English word you can find in the dictionary, it is one that seems to be used more by New Zealanders and Australians than other English speakers.

To the point that as a New Zealander abroad myself, I have been asked by many North Americans and Europeans what this word means.

Example sentences:

“There were heaps of people on the beach.”

“I have heaps of clothes in my wardrobe.”

6. Togs (Swimsuit)

“Togs” refers to any swimming costume, bikini, one-piece, trunks or, in other words, a swimsuit. This is universally understood throughout New Zealand and a lot of Australia.

Example sentences:

“I just need to grab my togs before we head to the beach.”

“My togs are still wet.”

7. Pants (Trousers)

Trousers. Although in some places like in Britain, “pants” can refer to undergarments, “pants” throughout Australia and New Zealand mean trousers, not underwear. So now we are all clear that the following sentence is not as weird.

Example sentence:

“Oh no, I ripped a hole in my pants.”

8. Undies (Underwear)

This one does mean underwear.

Example sentence:

“I need to buy some new undies.”

9. Jandals (Sandals)

New Zealanders derived the term jandals from the name “Japanese sandals.” North Americans call them “flip flops,” Australians call them “thongs” and South Australians call them “plakkies.”

If a Kiwi is wearing anything on their feet to the beach or river, it will probably be jandals.

Example sentence:

“I’ll just put on my jandals, and I’m ready to go.”

10. Gumboots (Rubber Boots)

These are rubber boots or Wellington Boots, worn to stop the rain and mud from getting in. They’re also commonly worn by farmers or factory workers to protect their feet.

Example sentence:

“My gumboots are so dirty from the mud.”

11. Bach (Vacation House)

A holiday or beach house. There is a New Zealand ideology that success comes when you have the car, the boat and the bach. The bach is an iconic Kiwi summer escape.

Since water is everywhere in New Zealand, bachs are often found in remote parts of the country near the ocean surrounded in native bush.

Example sentence:

“We’re heading to the bach this weekend. Come with?”

12. Dairy (Corner Store)

A dairy is a small grocery store or corner store. This is one that is very unique to New Zealand. If you asked an Australian where the local dairy is, they would direct you to the closest farm or look at you like you are mad.

The term “dairy” stems from small stores in the early 1900s that sold milk, butter and cheese products from the local dairy farms. The name stuck, and today every Kiwi will point you to their local corner store if you ask, “Where’s the dairy?”

Example sentence:

“I’m going to the dairy to buy a pie and a drink.”

13. Op Shop (Thrift Shop)

Short for “opportunity shop,” “op shops” are charity shops that sell second-hand clothing and household things. “Op shopping” is used when you are going to shop at the op shops. 

Example sentence:

“I got this beautiful dress at the op shop.”

“Do you want to go op shopping with me this arvo?”

14. Loo (Toilet)

Another word for the toilet. This slang term is often used in the U.K. and Australia as well.

Example sentence:

“Excuse me, where is the loo?”

15. Wop Wops (The Countryside)

This describes a rural area far from town.

Example sentence:

“I live way out in the wop wops.”

16. Tramping (Long Distance Hiking)

Tramping is a term used for hiking long distances. Not to be confused with North American references to homeless people or prostitution.

Example sentence:

“This weekend, we went tramping through the Kaikōura ranges.”

17. O.E. (Overseas Experience)

This stands for “overseas experience” and is a unique term to Kiwis and Aussies. Usually, young people go on their O.E. after high school or after university to travel the world and work abroad for a year or two.

Example sentences:

“She’s heading off to Europe for her big O.E. next year.”

“I’m on my O.E.

18. Smoko (Short Work Break)

A short work break, usually 15-minutes long. Often, people smoke cigarettes at a smoko, hence the name, but with smoking becoming less popular, there still are many non-smokers who call their short 15-minute work breaks “smokos.”

Example sentence:

“I’m just going for my smoko.”

19. Dole (Unemployment Benefit)

The unemployment benefit. A “dole bludger” is someone who works the system to live off the dole because they do not want to work rather than they cannot work.

Example sentence:

“If I don’t find a job soon, I’m going to have to go on the dole.”

“He could get a job if he wanted to, he’s a dole bludger.”

20. Cheers (Thanks)

This usually means “thank you” but will also be heard when you clink glasses for celebrations or at the start of a meal. Like in Britain, it is sometimes also used as a goodbye phrase.

Depending on the region you are in, more commonly in the North Island, you may hear “chur, bro,” which means “cheers, bro.” 

Example sentences:

“Here’s to good food and good company, Cheers!”

“Cheers for the beers, bro.”

21. Choice (Great, Excellent)

Say this when you want to tell someone “good work,” or “that’s great.”

Example sentence:

“Check out this car I’ve been renovating.” “That’s choice.

22. Stoked (Excited or Happy)

Used when you are super happy about something. This is also used in Australia and in certain parts of North America like California.

Example sentences:

“I got the job.” “Wow, you must be super stoked.”

“I’m stoked she’s actually going out with me.”

23. No Sweat (No Worries)

This means “don’t worry about it!” You use it when you want to let someone know it doesn’t matter, or that something is no big deal.

Example sentence:

“I can pay you back that $20 tomorrow.” “No sweat.”

24. Sweet As (Really Good)

This refers to something that is really good. This can be used as both a statement about something being really good or as an affirmative reply to a statement.

Example sentences:

“That’s sweet as bro.”

“We’re going to the movies.” “Sweet as, can I come?”

25. Yeah Nah (No)

Even though this phrase starts out with a word meaning yes (“yeah”), this is commonly used to say “no” or “probably not.” We know, it’s a little confusing.

Example sentences:

“Yeah nah, that wasn’t funny.”

Yeah nah, I dunno.”

26. Knackered (Tired)

This slang word can mean everything from exhausted to tired to on the brink of passing out. Usually, it’s followed by a nap or an even longer sleep session.

Example sentence:

“I’m absolutely knackered today.”

27. Dodgy (Unreliable)

Something unreliable or untrustworthy. Also sometimes shortened to “dodge.” It can be used to describe a person or a thing (like a car that always breaks down).

Example sentences:

“That person looks super dodge.”

“I feel sick, I think the chicken I ate might have been dodgy.”

28. Munted (Broken)

This means something is broken or damaged in some way, often beyond repair.

Example sentences:

“That looks a bit munted, bro”

“My car is munted, but it still works.”

29. Ripped Off (Overpaid)

When you overpaid for something at a shop or a market, often regretting it later. This term is also used in North America. “Rip-off” is the noun form. 

Example sentences:

“Oh no, you got ripped off.

“How much did you pay for that? Sounds like a rip-off.

30. Eh or Ay? (Don’t You Agree?)

You have your choice of two very short words to mean, “don’t you agree?” They’re typically only used in the spoken language at the end of a question or sentence that requires a response (or sometimes when a response isn’t even required!).

Example sentence:

“That was a lot of fun, eh?”

“I’m not sure ay, it seems too hard.”

31. Scroggin  (Trail Mix)

When you’re out on the trail, or perhaps tramping up the side of a mountain on a multi-day hike, there’s nothing like trail mix to keep you going. That salty-sweet mixture of nuts and dried fruits is called “scroggin” in New Zealand, but no one seems to know why.

Example sentence:

“Bro this hike is endless. I need some scroggin.”

32. Hot Chips (Fries)

When you’ve got the munchies, there’s nothing better than a hot, fresh order of French fries with your favorite sauce. But in New Zealand, you’ll want to order “hot chips” to get fries.

Example sentence:

“I’m starved from surfing. Let’s stop for some hot chips.”

33. Tiki Tour (Sightseeing)

“Tiki tour” often refers to just taking a drive somewhere for no particular reason, or taking the scenic route to get somewhere.

It can also be slang for sightseeing—so when you hit the tourist sites, from churches to markets to well known mountains, bays and beaches, you’ll be on a “tiki tour.”

Example sentence:

“I’m bored, who wants to go on a tiki tour?”

34. Chilly Bin (Cooler)

When you want to hit the beach with a couple of beers or sodas, you’ll want to keep them cold of course. That’s when you break out the “chilly bin,” fill it with ice and load in the beverages, so you can stay cool under the midday sun.

Example sentence:

“Fill the chilly bin! We’re heading to the beach!”

35. Mahi (Work)

This is another word which isn’t really “slang,” because it’s actually a Māori word. It can be used to describe almost any type of work. It also can be used to describe making something, raising money or even accomplishing a goal.

Example sentence:

“You’ve gotta just do the mahi.”

36. Chur (Thanks, Hello, Yes)

Do you want one slang word that means “thanks,” “hello” and “yes” all in one? Well, “chur” is your choice then. This Swiss Army knife of a word can also be used to mean “good work.”

Example sentence:

Chur, bro. Nice work!”

Resources for Learning More New Zealand Slang

This list of 36 essential slang words is just the starting point in your learning Kiwi slang journey. An excellent resource for learning more is the New Zealand Slang website, which is solely dedicated to sharing Kiwi slang words and their meanings.

For people planning on moving to New Zealand for study or those who want to better understand the local language and culture, the NauMai NZ website has a great page about the local culture and lifestyle.

With slang terms, it’s especially important to hear the words in their proper contexts, because when you misuse slang, it’s a total give away you’re not a local Kiwi.

To hear and learn New Zealand English slang in context, you may want to try out FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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Now get out there and put your New Zealand slang terms to use!

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

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Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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