New Zealand English

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New Zealand English (NZE, en-NZ[1]) is the dialect[2] of the English language used in New Zealand.

The English language was established in New Zealand by colonists during the 19th century. It is one of "the newest native-speaker variet[ies] of the English language in existence, a variety which has developed and become distinctive only in the last 150 years".[3] The most distinctive influences on New Zealand English have come from Australian English, English in southern England, Irish English, Scottish English, the prestige Received Pronunciation (RP), and Māori.[4] New Zealand English is most similar to Australian English in pronunciation, with some key differences.


The first comprehensive dictionary dedicated to New Zealand English was probably the Heinemann New Zealand Dictionary, published in 1979. Edited by Harry Orsman, it is a 1,300-page book, with information relating to the usage and pronunciation of terms that were widely accepted throughout the English-speaking world and those peculiar to New Zealand. It includes a one-page list of the approximate date of entry into common parlance of the many terms found in New Zealand English but not elsewhere, such as "haka" (1827), "Boohai" (1920), and "bach" (1905). A second edition was published in 1989 and a third edition, published by Reed Publishing and edited by Nelson Wattie was published in 2001.[5]

Orsman's next dictionary achievement was the publication of The New Zealand Dictionary published by New House Publishers in 1994. It was co-edited by Elizabeth Orsman. A second edition was published in 1995, edited by Elizabeth Orsman.[6]

In 1997, Oxford University Press produced The Dictionary of New Zealand English, which it claimed was based on over 40 years of research. This research started with Orsman's 1951 thesis and continued with his editing this dictionary. To assist with and maintain this work, the New Zealand Dictionary Centre was founded in 1997. It has published several more dictionaries of New Zealand English, including The New Zealand Oxford Paperback Dictionary, edited by New Zealand lexicographer Tony Deverson in 1998, culminating in The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary in 2004, by Tony Deverson and Graeme Kennedy.[7] A second, revised edition of The New Zealand Oxford Paperback Dictionary was published in 2006,[8] this time using standard lexicographical regional markers to identify the NZ content which were absent in the first edition.

Another authoritative work is the Collins English Dictionary first published 1979 by HarperCollins which contains an abundance of well-cited New Zealand words and phrases drawing from the 650 million word Bank of English a British research facility set up at the University of Birmingham in 1980 and funded by Collins publishers. Although this is a British dictionary of International English there has always been a credited New Zealand advisor for the New Zealand content, namely Professor Ian Gordon from 1979 until 2002 and Professor Elizabeth Gordon[9] from the University of Canterbury since 2003. New Zealand-specific dictionaries compiled from the Collins English Dictionary include the Collins New Zealand Concise English Dictionary (1982), Collins New Zealand School Dictionary (1999) and Collins New Zealand Paperback Dictionary (2009.)

In 1981 Australia's Macquarie Dictionary was published. This work has since become the authority on Australian English. From the onset the Macquarie Dictionary has always included an abundance of New Zealand words and phrases additional to the mutually shared words and phrases of both countries. Every edition has retained a New Zealander advisor for the New Zealand content, the first being Harry Orsman[10] and the most recent being noted New Zealand lexicographer Laurie Bauer.

A more light-hearted look at English as spoken in New Zealand, A Personal Kiwi-Yankee Dictionary, was written by the American-born University of Otago psychology lecturer Louis Leland in 1980. This slim volume lists many of the potentially confusing and/or misleading terms for Americans visiting or emigrating to New Zealand. A second edition was published in 1990.

Historical development

From the 1790s, New Zealand was visited by British, French and American whaling, sealing and trading ships. Their crews traded European goods with the indigenous Māori.

The first actual settlers to New Zealand were mainly from Australia, many ex-convicts or escaped convicts. Sailors, explorers and traders from Australia and other parts of Europe also settled.

In 1788 the colony of New South Wales of Australia had been founded. The colony included most of New Zealand except for the southern half of the South Island.

Formed two years prior in London, the New Zealand Company announced its plans to establish colonies in New Zealand in 1839. The continuing lawlessness of many of the informally established Australian and European settlers spurred the British to take better control of the colony which until then the British had largely ignored, having concentrated mainly on managing Australia.

From 1840 there was considerable European settlement, primarily from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland; and to a lesser extent the United States, India, China, and various parts of continental Europe. Some 400,000 settlers came from Britain, of whom 300,000 stayed permanently. Most were young people and 250,000 babies were born.

New Zealand ceased to be part of New South Wales and became a British colony on 1 July 1841.

Gold discoveries in Otago (1861) and Westland (1865), caused a worldwide gold rush that more than doubled the population in a short period, from 71,000 in 1859 to 164,000 in 1863.

Between 1864 and 1865, under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, 13 ships carrying citizens of England, Ireland and South Africa arrived to New Zealand under the Waikato Immigration Scheme.[11][12]

In the 1870s and 1880s, several thousand Chinese men, mostly from Guangdong province, migrated to New Zealand to work on the South Island goldfields. Although the first Chinese migrants had been invited by the Otago Provincial government they quickly became the target of hostility from settlers and laws were enacted specifically to discourage them from coming to New Zealand thereafter.

The European population of New Zealand grew explosively from fewer than 1000 in 1831 to 500,000 by 1881. By 1911 the number of European settlers had reached a million.

With this colourful history of unofficial and official settlement of peoples from all over Europe, Australia, South Africa, and Asia and the intermingling of the people with the indigenous Māori brought about what would eventually evolve into a "New Zealand accent" and a unique regional English lexicon.

A distinct New Zealand variant of the English language has been recognized since at least 1912, when Frank Arthur Swinnerton described it as a "carefully modulated murmur". From the beginning of the haphazard Australian and European settlements and latter official British migrations, a new dialect began to form by adopting Māori words to describe the different flora and fauna of New Zealand, for which English did not have any words of its own.[13]

The New Zealand accent appeared first in towns with mixed populations of immigrants from Australia, England, Ireland, and Scotland. These included the militia towns of the North Island and the gold-mining towns of the South Island. In more homogeneous towns such as those in Otago and Southland, settled mainly by people from Scotland, the New Zealand accent took longer to appear.[14]

Since the latter 20th century New Zealand society has gradually divested itself of its fundamentally British roots[15] and has adopted influences from all over the world, especially in the early 21st century when New Zealand experienced an increase of non-British immigration which has since brought about a more prominent multi-national society. The Internet, television,[16] movies and popular music have all brought international influences into New Zealand society and the New Zealand lexicon. Americanization of New Zealand society and language has subtly and gradually been taking place since World War II and especially since the 1970s,[17] as has happened also in neighbouring Australia.


Not all New Zealanders have the same accent, as the level of cultivation (i.e. the extremity) of every speaker's accent differs. The phonology in this section is of an educated speaker of New Zealand English.[18]


Monophthongs of New Zealand English.[19]
Closing diphthongs of New Zealand English.[20]
Centring diphthongs of New Zealand English.[21]

The vowels of New Zealand English are similar to that of other non-rhotic dialects such as Australian English and RP, but with some distinct variations, which are indicated by the transcriptions for New Zealand vowels in the tables below:[22]

Monophthongs of New Zealand English
Front Central Back
long short long short long short
( / i)
Mid e
(ɪ / ɨ / ə / ər)

(ɔː / ɔr / ɔər)
Open ɛ
(ɑː / ɑː / ɑr)
Diphthongs of New Zealand English
IPA (NZ) IPA (key) Keyword
oe ɔɪ CHOICE
ɪər NEAR[23]
ʉɐ ʊər CURE[24]

However, vowel charts[19][20] show that /iː ɒ ɑe ɐʉ æo/ aren't accurate transcriptions, and /ɘi ɔ ɐe ɑɵ æɔ/ approximate the actual pronunciation closer.

Short front vowels

  • In New Zealand English the short-i of KIT /ɪ/ is a central vowel not phonologically distinct from schwa /ə/, the vowel in unstressed "the", both of which are a close-mid central unrounded vowel /ɘ/. It thus contrasts sharply with the /i/ vowel heard in Australia. Recent acoustic studies featuring both Australian and New Zealand voices show the accents were more similar before the Second World War and the KIT vowel has undergone rapid centralisation in New Zealand English.[25] This has led to a long-running joke between Australians and New Zealanders whereby Australians accuse New Zealanders of saying "fush and chups" for fish and chips and in turn New Zealanders accuse Australians of saying "feesh and cheeps" in light of Australia's own KIT vowel shift.[26][27][28] In actual fact the KIT vowel can sometimes be mistaken for the NURSE vowel in some NZ speakers so that "fish and chips" may sound like "firsh and chirps" (non-rhotic) rather than the "fush and chups" stereotype. Thus the words "bitch" and "birch" may be difficult to discern by a non-New Zealander, although the latter vowel is very commonly realized with lip-rounding.
  • Like South African English, some Australian and some Southern American dialects, the DRESS vowel /ɛ/ has moved to become a close-mid vowel [e] for some, although the New Zealand /e/ can be closer to [ɪ]. This was played for laughs in the American TV series Flight of the Conchords, where the character Bret's name was often mis-heard as "Brit", leading to confusion. In broader uses very often the DRESS vowel becomes the FLEECE vowel so that in the sentence "you are my best mate", this is heard as "you are my beast mate". In the sentence "I bet you ten dollars" this could easily be heard as "I beat you teen dollars" by a non-New Zealander. In other broader uses, the DRESS vowel in some single-vowel words becomes a diphthong as with broad Southern American English, so that words like pen become [ˈpiː(ə)n] and pest becomes [ˈpiːəst].[citation needed] In cultivated New Zealand English pronunciation of the DRESS vowel remains the same as regular British, North American and Australian English speakers.

Conditioned mergers

  • The NEAR /ɪə/ and SQUARE /eə/ vowels are increasingly being merged, especially since the beginning of the 21st Century[29] so that here now rhymes with there; and bear and beer, and rarely and really are homophones. Thus Air New Zealand and Ear New Zealand are identical. There is some debate as to the quality of the merged vowel, but the consensus appears to be that it is towards a close variant, [iə].[30] This merger is not unique to New Zealand and also occurs in East Anglia in the UK and South Carolina in the United States, although the quality of the merged vowel in these accents is much more open, i.e. [ɛː] or [ɛə̯].
  • Before /l/, the vowels /iː/ and /ɪə/ (as in reel vs real), as well as /ɒ/ and /oʊ/ (doll vs dole), and sometimes /ʊ/ and /uː/ (pull vs pool), /ɛ/ and /æ/ (Ellen vs Alan) and /ʊ/ and /ɪ/ (full vs fill) may be merged.[31][32]

Other vowels

  • As with Australian English the START/PALM vowel in words like park /pɑːrk/, calm /kɑːm/ and farm /fɑːrm/ is central or even front of central in terms of tongue position and non-rhotic.[33] This is the same vowel sound used by speakers of the Boston accent and other non-rhotic areas of North Eastern New England in the United States. Thus the phrase "park the car" is said identically by a New Zealander, Australian or Bostonian.[34] Can't is also pronounced /kɑːnt/ in both New Zealand and Australia and not /kænt/ as in United States and Canada.
  • The most obvious vowel shift in New Zealand English from other kinds is the TRAP vowel /æ/ which is usually realized as open-mid [ɛ]. This vowel shift is shared by South African English speakers and is one of the main reasons American English speakers may mistake New Zealanders for South Africans. In the phrase "the cat sat on the mat" this is heard by non New Zealanders as "the ket set on the met". A "laptop" is heard by non-New Zealanders as "leptop" and a "tablet" as a "teblet". Some older Southland speakers use the TRAP vowel rather than the START vowel in dance, chance and castle.[35] In contrast, the TRAP vowel in young Australians is tending towards START or STRUT in some words so that "the cat sat on the mat" can be heard as "the kaht sut on the maht", "laptop" is heard as "lahp-top" and "tablet" as "tub-let". This comparison serves to illustrate the progressive distancing of the New Zealand and Australian accents.
  • The NURSE vowel /ɜr/ is rounded and often fronted in the region of [ɵː~œː~øː].[36]
  • The THOUGHT vowel /ɔː/ is a close-mid back rounded vowel [oː], as is in Australian and South African English.


  • New Zealand English is mostly non-rhotic (with linking and intrusive R), except for speakers with the so-called Southland burr, a semi-rhotic, Scottish-influenced dialect heard principally in Southland and parts of Otago.[37][38] Older Southland speakers use /r/ variably after vowels, but today younger speakers use /r/ only with the NURSE vowel and occasionally with the second vowel in letter. Younger Southland speakers pronounce /r/ in third term but not in farm cart.[39] A fairly accurate representation of the rhotic Southern New Zealand accent was depicted in The World's Fastest Indian, a movie about the life of New Zealander Burt Munro and his achievements at Bonneville Speedway. On the DVD release of the movie one of the Special Features is Roger Donaldson's original 1971 documentary Offerings to the God of Speed featuring the real Burt Monro.[40] His (and others) southern New Zealand accent is definitive. Among r-less speakers, however, non-prevocalic /r/ is sometimes pronounced in a few words, including Ireland, merely, err, and the name of the letter R.[41]
  • /l/ is dark in all positions, and is often vocalised in the syllable coda.[26][31] This varies in different regions and between different socio-economic groups; the younger, lower social class speakers vocalise /l/ most of the time.[42]

Other consonants

  • New Zealand English has the wine-whine merger; thus the distinction between /w/ as in witch and /ʍ/ as in which has disappeared except in the speech of older speakers.[31][43]
  • As with Australian English and American English the intervocalic /t/ may be flapped[31] so that in the sentence "use a little bit of butter" becomes "use a liddle bid of budder".

Other features

  • Some New Zealand speakers have the salary–celery merger and would thus realize both /ɛl/ and /æl/ as [æl]. For instance, elephant would be pronounced [ˈælɘfɘnt]. Pairs such as elegy and allergy and Alan and Ellen would now be homophonous.[45] This merger has been noted since at least 1939 when it was then commented on by Arnold Wall. Other speakers do maintain a distinction between /ɛl/ and /æl/.
  • Some New Zealanders pronounce past participles such as grown, thrown and mown with two syllables, the latter containing a schwa /-.ən/ not found in other accents. By contrast, groan, throne and moan are all unaffected, meaning these word pairs can be distinguished by ear.[42]
  • The trans- prefix is usually pronounced /træns/. This produces mixed pronunciation of the as in words like transplant /ˈtrænsplɑːnt/. However, /trɑːns/ is also heard.
  • The name of the letter H is almost always //, as in North America, and is almost never aspirated (/h/).
  • The name of the letter Z is usually the British, Canadian and Australian zed. However the Alphabet Song for children is sometimes sung ending with /z/ in accordance with the rhyme. Where Z is universally pronounced zee in places, names, terms, or titles, such as ZZ Top, LZ (Landing Zone), Jay Z (celebrity), or Z Nation (TV show) New Zealanders follow universal pronunciation.
  • The word foyer is usually pronounced /ˈfɔɪə/, as in Australian English, rather than /ˈfɔɪ/ as in British English.
  • The word with is almost always pronounced /wɪð/, though /wɪθ/ may be found in some minority groups.
  • The word and combining form graph is pronounced both /ɡrɑːf/ and /ɡræf/.
  • The word data is commonly pronounced /ˈdɑːtə/, with /ˈdtə/ being the second commonest, and /ˈdætə/ being very rare.
  • Words such as contribute and distribute are predominantly pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, -tri-. Variants with the stress on the first syllable also occur.
  • Common in spoken New Zealand is the use of the word "like" as a quotative, discourse marker[46] or as a hedge, similar to its use in "Valleyspeak" belonging to the "Valley Girl" stereotype of the United States. This appears to have been adopted by young New Zealanders during the 1980s when "Valleyspeak" became popularized internationally through music and media of the time.[47] Katie Drager, associate professor in sociolinguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, showed that New Zealand English speakers have distinct uses for 'like' and that they pronounce each type of 'like' slightly differently (so that e.g. "He was like 'yeah' and she was like 'no'" would have a different pronunciation from "And, like, it was raining").[48] Australian English did not develop in this way and thus this feature remains a distinct difference between Australian and New Zealand colloquial English.
  • New Zealand English is well known for the frequent use of the word "eh", where it is used by New Zealanders after sentences to mean many things such as "is it?", "isn't it", "it definitely is", "excuse me/pardon", "do you agree?", "that is true", "what?", "are you serious?", "didn't you? [accusative]", "I mean what I said", etc.[49] The Māori word "nei" has similar meaning and usage.[50] The New Zealand usage of the word "eh" is also increasingly filtering into Australian English and can often be heard in similar usages especially by Western Australians and Sydneysiders, possibly due to the higher numbers of New Zealand immigrants living in those areas. Queenslanders too claim the use of "eh" to be a marker of their local dialect which is unattributed to any New Zealand influence.[51]
  • The frequency of the Australian-derived "yeah-no" marker is occurring more in New Zealand English[52] although whereas the age demographic in Australian usage is 35-49[53] this is not conclusive in New Zealand usage. Australian usage has been documented at least as early as 2002.[54]


There are a number of dialectal words and phrases used in New Zealand English. These are mostly informal terms that are more common in casual speech. A considerable number of loan words have also been taken from the Māori language as well as from Australian English. (see the separate section, below).

New Zealand adopted decimal currency in the 1960s and the metric system in the 1970s. Despite this, several imperial measures are still widely encountered and usually understood, such as feet and inches for a person's height, pounds and ounces for an infant's birth weight, and in colloquial terms such as referring to drinks in pints.[55][56][57] In the food manufacturing industry in New Zealand both metric and non-metric systems of weight are used and usually understood owing to raw food products being imported from both metric and non-metric countries. However per the December 1976 Weights and Measures Amendment Act, all foodstuffs must be retailed using the metric system.[58] In general, the knowledge of non-metric units is lessening.

The word spud for potato, now common throughout the English-speaking world, originated in New Zealand English.[59]

As with Australian English, but in contrast to most other forms of the language, some speakers of New Zealand English use both the terms bath and bathe as verbs, with bath used as a transitive verb (e.g. I will bath the dog), and bathe used predominantly, but not exclusively, as an intransitive verb (e.g. Did you bathe?).

Both the words amongst and among are used, as in British English. The same is true for two other pairs, whilst & while and amidst & amid.

Australian English influences

Many New Zealand English terms have their origins in Australia. The most well-known one is the use of the word mate to mean friend, or buddy, or simply person, as in "G'day mate, how are ya?" or "cheers, mate!" Although it is originally an early British usage adopted and adapted in Australia, it is used in New Zealand exactly as in Australian usage. Māori tend to use the word bro in the same way although this is no longer exclusively a Māori usage. Other Australian words that have become part of the New Zealand vocabulary are coo-ee which was originally an aboriginal term meaning ‘to come’ and which has been used as an all-purpose call to summon someone in for their lunch etc. It exists in NZE in the phrase "within coo-ee" meaning 'near'. "Tall poppy" originated in Australia as a negatively loaded reference to someone who stood out from the crowd (e.g. by being particularly bright or successful). It has been adopted and adapted in New Zealand, giving "tall poppyitis" (a variant of "Tall Poppy Syndrome"), "tall poppy pruning", etc., as well as homegrown equivalents like "tall ponga" (the ponga is a native tree fern).[60]

Other Australian terms present in NZE include bushed (lost or bewildered), chunder (to vomit), dinkum (genuine or real), drongo (a foolish or stupid person), fossick (to search), jumbuck (sheep, from Australian pidgin), larrikin (mischievous person), Maccas (21st Century slang for McDonald's food), maimai (a duckshooter’s hide; originally a makeshift shelter, from aboriginal mia-mia), station (for a large farm), pom or pommy (an Englishman), wowser (killjoy), and ute (pickup truck.)

American English influences

Advancing from its British and Australian English origins, New Zealand English has developed to include many Americanisms and American vocabulary in preference over British terms as well as directly borrowed American vocabulary. Some examples of American words used instead of British words in New Zealand English are bobby pin for British hair pin, muffler for the British silencer, truck for the British lorry, station wagon for the British estate car, stove over cooker, creek[61] over brook, hope chest over bottom drawer, eggplant instead of aubergine, hardware store instead of ironmonger, median strip for central reservation, stroller for pushchair, pushup for press-up, potato chip instead of potato crisp, license plate for registration plate, cellphone or cell for British and Australian mobile phone and mobile, and popsicle instead of British ice lolly (or Australian icy pole.)[62]

Directly borrowed American vocabulary include the boonies, bucks (dollars), bushwhack (fell timber), butt (replacing British/Australian arse although arse can still be used), ding (dent), dude, duplex, faggot and fag (replacing British poof and poofter), figure[63] (to think or conclude; consider), hightail it, homeboy, hooker, lagoon, lube (oil change), man (in place of mate or bro in direct address), major (to study or qualify in a subject), to be over [some situation] (be fed up), reckon (to think or suppose), rig (large truck), sheltered workshop (workplace for disabled persons), spat[64] (a small argument), subdivision, and tavern.[65]

New Zealand's parliament is called 'House of Representatives' (as opposed to House of Commons in UK and Canada).

New Zealand-isms

In addition to word and phrase borrowings from Australian, British and American English, New Zealand has its own unique words and phrases[66] derived entirely in New Zealand. Not considering slang, some of these New Zealand-isms are:

  • choice (adj or interj) excellent; good
  • chur (interj) contraction of "cheers" most common heard in "chur, bro".
  • dairy (noun) a corner shop; convenience store
  • fang it (phrase) to go fast.
  • flash (adjective) fancy, showy, upmarket. Although this is not unique to New Zealand, this usage is becoming obsolete throughout the rest of the native English speaking world, yet is still very much in use throughout New Zealand.
  • get your beans (phrase) get what's coming to you; be punished
  • Gib board, Gibraltar board (noun) the common NZ term for drywall, plasterboard interior wall lining (a genericised trademark; Gib is a trademark of Winstone Wallboards Ltd)
  • handle (noun) a glass of beer with a handle; pint.
  • iwi (noun) Māori word for tribe.
  • kai (noun) Māori word for food.
  • Kiwi (adj) Not only does Kiwi mean 'a New Zealand person' but it is sometimes used to replace the word New Zealand in NZ businesses or titles, such as KiwiRail and Kiwibank or New Zealand-related nouns, e.g. "Kiwi-ism". This practice may be seen by non-New Zealanders as overly kitsch or cute.
  • knackered (adv) tired; worn out.
  • metal road (noun) a dirt road overlaid with gravel to assist drainage and keep dust down, typically found in rural settings.
  • munted (adj, slang) a) destroyed; trashed; broken b) of a person, weird or odd
  • nice (adj, applied to food) good-tasting
  • pooped (adj) tired (found in other forms of English as well)
  • puckerood (adj) broken; busted; wrecked, (from Māori pakaru.
  • puku (noun) Māori word for stomach (belly)
  • rattle your dags! (phrase) hurry up! ‘Dag’ originally referred to dried faeces stuck to the wool of a sheep, which would rattle as it ran.
  • rough as guts (phrase) of machinery, not working properly; of behavior uncouth or unacceptable.
  • shingle (noun) gravel. A shingle road is an un-sealed road.
  • shot (acknowledgement or interj)
    • thank you
    • to express joy
    • give praise
  • skull (verb) to drink a glass of beer in one go.
  • souvenir (verb) to take without asking; steal (such as soap from a hotel or napkins from a restaurant, etc.)
  • stoked (adv) very pleased; delighted.
  • superette (noun) a convenience store smaller than a supermarket but bigger than a corner store.
  • sweet as!' (interj) Cool! Awesome!
  • tar seal road (noun) chipseal road.
  • tiki tour (noun) a guided tour; exploration; a meandering route taken in order to waste time.
  • togs (noun) a swimsuit (for either a male or female).
  • town house (noun) a small self-contained, free standing house with little or no back yard, often with a shared driveway with neighbouring houses.[67] The NZ meaning is unique and differs completely from the American, Asian, Australian and European meaning of townhouse (i.e. terraced houses) as well as the UK meaning (city houses of nobility.)
  • tramping (noun) tramp (verb) Bushwalking, hiking. Usage is exclusive to New Zealand.
  • tucker (noun) food
  • up the boohai / up the Puhoi [River] (phrase) to be lost; stranded.
  • wahine (noun) Māori word for woman; wife.
  • wee (adjective) 1) a short time, a little bit, as in "my chicken was a wee bit overcooked." 2) small, little, as in "he was a wee boy." This is directly from Scottish dialect and is in common formal use throughout New Zealand whereas in other English speaking countries this usage is uncommon or used only informally. It is not part of Australian English, for example.
  • whanau (noun) Māori word for family.

Differences from Australian English

Many of these relate to words used to refer to common items, often based on which major brands become eponyms.

NZ Australia Translation to US/UK English
cellphone[note 1]
mobile phone
mobile phone
a portable telephone. Note: "Cell" and "cellphone" are predominantly US. "Mobile" and "mobile phone" are predominantly UK. New Zealand uses the terms "cell" and "cellphone" predominantly. Australia uses the terms "mobile" and "mobile phone" exclusively. The term "cell" is only used in Australia as in cellular tower. The US and New Zealand term Cellular Network is called Mobile Network in Australia.[68]
chilly bin Esky[note 2] an insulated box used to keep food or drink cool
crib[note 3]
shack[69] a small, often very modest holiday property, often at the seaside
dairy[note 4] milk bar
convenience store, a small store selling mainly food
duvet Doona[note 2] Doona is an Australian trade mark for a brand of duvet which has replaced the term duvet entirely.
ice block
ice block
Icy Pole[note 2]
Ice pop
thongs flip-flops
thong (clothing) g-string thong (clothing)
candy floss fairy floss Candy floss in the UK, cotton candy in the US
cattle stop
cattle grid
cattle grid a device for preventing cattle wandering on country roads
speed bump
judder bar[70][note 5]
speed bump
speed hump[note 6]
a raised section of road used to deter excessive speed
drinking fountain bubbler[71]
drinking fountain
a device designed to provide drinking water. This term is also used in Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
shrimp prawn NZ usage follows general international usage whereby shrimp refers to smaller sized species (such as in a "shrimp cocktail") and prawn to larger varieties whereas in Australia prawn is the sole term for both.[citation needed]
no exit no through road signage for a road with a dead end, a cul-de-sac
togs swimming costume[note 7]
budgie smugglers[note 8]
swimwear, swimming costumes, or other clothes designed to be worn in water
Twink[note 2] Liquid Paper[note 2]
Wite-Out[note 2]
Correction fluid. Note that Twink is a New Zealand brand name which has entered the vernacular as a generic term, being the first product of its kind introduced in the 1980s. The common Australian general term is white-out.[72] Liquid Paper is also a brand name which is sometimes used as a generic term in Australia or New Zealand. As with other countries (but not Australia) the European brand Tipp-Ex is also available in New Zealand and is sometimes used as a generic term as well.
Motorway Freeway In Australia, Controlled-access highways can be named as either Freeway (a term not used in NZ) or Motorway, depending on the state.
"Howdy" "G'day"
"hello" (etc.)
Although the greeting "G'day" is as common in New Zealand as it is in Australia, the term "Howdy" can be heard throughout New Zealand[73][74][75] but not frequently in Australia. This contraction of "how do you do?" is actually of English origin (South English dialect ca. 1860), however is contemporarily associated with Southern American English, particularly Texan where it is a common greeting. It is possible the NZ origin is from the earlier British usage.
marker pen
felt tips
Texta[note 2]
highlighter[note 9]
a marker pen
tramping hiking
travel through open or (more often) forested areas on foot
  1. The terms mobile(phone) and cell(phone) are used interchangeably, with cell being the predominant term, compared with preferring a single term (as occurs in Australia, the UK and the US).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 a genericised trademark
  3. Crib is mainly used in the southern part of the South Island, bach in the rest of New Zealand.
  4. In larger cities in New Zealand convenience store is used due to immigration (and to current NZ law forbidding a dairy from selling alcohol), though dairy is used commonly in conversation. In New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s milk bar referred to a soda shop. In some states of Australia "milk bar" is used; other states use "deli".[citation needed] "Deli" is used in New Zealand to refer to a store selling high quality meats.
  5. The term judder bar is regional in its usage in New Zealand, and is rarely encountered in some parts of the country.
  6. used in New South Wales and Victoria
  7. Australian English terms for swimwear vary from region to region.
  8. refers to swim briefs
  9. The term highlighter is also widely used in New Zealand to refer to a wide-tipped pen of this sort.


Some New Zealanders will often reply to a question with a statement spoken with a rising intonation at the end. This often has the effect of making their statement sound like another question. There is enough awareness of this that it is seen in exaggerated form in comedy parody of New Zealanders, such as in the Classic 1970s comedy character Lyn Of Tawa.[76] This rising intonation can also be heard at the end of statements, which are not in response to a question but to which the speaker wishes to add emphasis. High rising terminals are also heard in Australia.[77]

In informal speech, some New Zealanders use the third person feminine she in place of the third person neuter it as the subject of a sentence, especially when the subject is the first word of the sentence. The most common use of this is in the phrase "She'll be right" meaning either "It will be okay" or "It is close enough to what is required". Similar to Australian English are uses such as "she was great car" or "she's a real beauty, this [object]".

Māori influence

Many local everyday words have been borrowed from the Māori language, including words for local flora, fauna, place names and the natural environment.

The dominant influence of Māori on New Zealand English is lexical. A 1999 estimate based on the Wellington corpora of written and spoken New Zealand English put the proportion of words of Māori origin at approximately 0.6%, mostly place and personal names.[78]

The everyday use of Māori words, usually colloquial, occurs most prominently among youth, young adults and Māori populations. Examples include words like kia ora ("hello"), or kai ("food") which almost all New Zealanders know.

Māori is ever present and has a significant conceptual influence in the legislature, government, and community agencies (e.g. health and education), where legislation requires that proceedings and documents be translated into Māori (under certain circumstances, and when requested). Political discussion and analysis of issues of sovereignty, environmental management, health, and social well-being thus rely on Māori at least in part. Māori as a spoken language is particularly important wherever community consultation occurs.

Pronunciation of Māori place names

The pronunciations of many Māori place names were anglicised for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but since the 1980s increased consciousness of the Māori language has led to a shift towards using a Māori pronunciation. The anglicisations have persisted most among residents of the towns in question, so it has become something of a shibboleth, with correct Māori pronunciation marking someone as non-local.

Placename English pronunciation Te Reo Māori Māori pronunciation
Cape Reinga /ˌkp rˈæŋə/ ray-i-nga [Maori IPA needed]
Hawera /ˈhɑː.wɛr.ə/, /ˈhɑː.wər.ə/, or /-ɑː/ ha-we-ra [ˈhɑː.we.ɾɑ]
Otahuhu /.tə.ˈh.h/ o-ta-hu-hu [Maori IPA needed]
Otorohanga /ˌ.trə.ˈhʌŋ.ə/ or /ˌ.trə.ˈhɒŋ.ə/ o-to-ra-ha-nga [ˈoː.to.ɾo.hɑ.ŋɑ]
Paraparaumu /ˌpær.ə.pærˈ.m/ pa-ra-pa-rau-mu [pɑ.ɾɑ.pɑ.ˈɾɑ]
Taumarunui /ˌt.mə.rəˈn.i/ tau-ma-ra-nu-i [ˈtɑu.mɑ.ɾɑ.nui]
Te Awamutu /ˌt əˈmt/ te a-wa-mu-tu [te ɑ.wɑ.mu.tu][stress?]
Te Kauwhata /ti kə.ˈwɒt.ə/ te kau-fa-ta [te ˈkɑu.ɸɑ.tɑ]
Waikouaiti /ˈwæk.ə wt/ or /ˈwɛk.ə wɒt/ wai-kou-ai-ti [ˈwai.kou.ɑːi.ti]

Some anglicised names are colloquially shortened, for example, Coke /kk/ for Kohukohu, the Rapa /ˈræp.ə/ for the Wairarapa, Kura /ˈk.rə/ for Papakura, Papatoe /ˈpæp.ə.t.i/ for Papatoetoe, Otahu /.tə.ˈh/ for Otahuhu, Paraparam /ˈpær.ə.pær.æm/ or Pram /præm/ for Paraparaumu, the Naki /ˈnæk.i/ for Taranaki, Cow-cop /ˈkˌkɒp/ for Kaukapakapa and Pie-cock /ˈp.kɒk/ for Paekakariki.

There is some confusion between these shortenings, especially in the southern South Island, and the natural variations of the southern dialect of Māori. Not only does this dialect sometimes feature apocope, but consonants also vary slightly from standard Māori. To compound matters, names were often initially transcribed by Scottish settlers, rather than the predominantly English settlers of other parts of the country; as such further alterations are not uncommon. Thus, while Lake Wakatipu is sometimes referred to as Wakatip,[needs IPA] Oamaru as Om-a-roo,[needs IPA] and Waiwera South as Wy-vra /ˈwvrə/, these differences may be as much caused by dialect differences – either in Māori or in the English used during transcription – as by the process of anglicisation.


Recognisable regional variations are slight, with the exception of Southland, where the "Southland burr" (see above) is heard. It is also common in the southern part of neighbouring Otago. This southern area formed a traditional repository of immigration from Scotland (see Dunedin). Several words and phrases common in Scots or Scottish English persist in this area: examples include the use of wee to mean "small", and phrases such as to do the messages meaning "to go shopping". Taranaki has also been said to have a minor regional accent, possibly due to the high number of immigrants from the South-West of England, however this becoming less pronounced.[79] Current research (2012) suggests that postvocalic /r/ is not restricted to Southland, but is found also in the central North Island where there may be a Pasifika influence, but also a possible influence from modern New Zealand hip‐hop music, which has been shown to have high levels of non‐prevocalic /r/ after the NURSE vowel.

Other Southland features that have been identified and which may also relate to early Scottish settlement are the use of the TRAP vowel in a set of BATH words (dance, castle), which is also found in some Australia English regions and in the maintenance of the /ʍ/ ~ /w/ distinction (e.g. which and witch are not homophonous for such speakers.)[80]

Some Māori have an accent distinct from the general New Zealand accent, tending to use Māori words more frequently. Bro'Town was a TV programme that exaggerated Māori, Polynesian, and other accents. Linguists recognise two main New Zealand accents, denoted "Pākehā English" and "Māori English"; with the latter strongly influenced by syllable-timed Māori speech patterns.[81] Pākehā English is beginning to adopt similar rhythms, distinguishing it from other stress-timed English accents.[82]


  • Where there is a difference between British and US spelling (such as cancelling/canceling and jewellery/jewelry), the British spelling of double-L is universally used. The British use of single-L is also universally used in words such as enrol.
  • New Zealanders spell tires as tyres unless a Trademark such as Cooper Tires.[83]
  • The Commonwealth spelling of kerb is used over US curb.
  • New Zealand spelling of -re words such as centre, mitre, litre, and theatre have always officially followed the British spelling as opposed to American center, miter, liter, and theater, although in practice American spellings are often used such as in Real Estate listings,[84] buy-and-sell websites such as Trade Me,[85] AutoTrader,[86] and others.
  • Words with the -ce suffix such as defence, and pretence are always spelt with -ce as opposed to the American defense, and pretense.
  • With -our words like colour/color or behaviour/behavior the spelling of -our is always used[87] unless a Trademark, such as Colorsteel[88] or The Color Run,[89] etc. Foreign official awards such as the FBI Medal Of Valor always retain their US spelling in New Zealand texts. Additionally the online version of the New Zealand Herald newspaper republishes articles with US spelling when the original article is written with US spelling, such as articles from the Associated Press. Since the advent of Word Processors with spell-checkers, in modern assignment writing in New Zealand universities the rule is to use either 100% British spelling or 100% American spelling the emphasis being consistency.[90]
  • For words ending -(e)ment as in judg(e)ment, either spelling is acceptable in New Zealand usage, although -ement is the preferred British usage.
  • New Zealand English retains the distinctions between program ("computer heuristic") and programme ("schedule", "broadcast show"), disk ("information storage device") and disc ("flat circular object"), and analog (as in analog stick) and analogue (all other senses) as found in British and often in Australian[91] English.
  • It is usual to form past tenses and past participles of certain verbs with -t and not -ed in New Zealand English. For example, learn becomes learnt, spoil becomes spoilt, burn becomes burnt, dream becomes dreamt (/drɛmt/), and lean becomes leant (/lɛnt/). These verb forms are pronounced with a final unvoiced /t/ sound, meaning spoilt is pronounced /ˈspɔɪlt/ not /ˈspɔɪld/. This contrasts with American English, where -ed is far commoner and is pronounced /d/ (e.g. dwelled (/dwɛld/) is an American form of dwelt (/dwɛlt/)). Learned, the adjective meaning "wise", is universally spelt thus and pronounced as two syllables. The past tenses and past participles of earn and boil are earned and boiled respectively, though they may be pronounced ending with a /t/ sound.
  • Words with the digraphs ae and oe in British English are usually spelt as such in New Zealand English (e.g. faeces not feces) rather than with just e as with American English. There are some exceptions where certain words are becoming universally spelt with e such as encyclopaedia, chamaeleon, hyaena, and homoeopathy which are now spelt encyclopedia, chameleon, hyena, and homeopathy respectively. Coincidentally, this is also occurring in British English in these cases too.
  • In hyperbolic statements, the spellings of ton and tons are commonly used (e.g. I have tons of friends and I feel tons better), despite the metric system with its tonne having been introduced in the 1970s.
  • In words that may be spelt with either an -ise or an -ize suffix (such as organise/organize) New Zealand English, like Australian English, mainly prefers -ise. This contrasts with American English, where -ize is generally preferred, and British English, where -ise is also generally preferred but by some, including the Oxford Dictionary, -ize is preferred. In New Zealand it is not wrong to use either spelling.
  • New Zealand favours fiord over fjord, unlike most other English-speaking countries,[92] although fjord is not unseen.
  • When spelling words with macrons borrowed from Māori, New Zealand English can either spell them with macrons or without (e.g. Maori and Māori are both accepted spellings). In informal writing, macrons are not usually kept. New Zealand tends to spell these words with macrons more often than other countries and there is a growing tendency to do so.
  • New Zealand always uses jail over British and Australian gaol.[93][94][95]
  • Gram, the unit of mass, is commonly spelt as such and not gramme, which is somewhat found in British English. The same holds true for the word's derivates (e.g. kilogram is commoner than kilogramme).
  • All abbreviations of words where the last letter of the abbreviation does not correspond to the last letter of the full-length word are abbreviated without a full stop in New Zealand English. Thus the abbreviation of Doctor is Dr and the abbreviation of Mister is Mr do not have full stops after them, as opposed to Dr. and Mr. in American English. Initialisms and acronyms such as USA and NASA (or Nasa), are also abbreviated without a full stops in New Zealand English. This practice has been in place in New Zealand since the late 1970s.

See also


  1. en-NZ is the language code for New Zealand English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
  2. Hay, J., Macglagan, M., & Gordon, E. (2008). New Zealand English. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
  3. Trudgill, P., Gordon, E., Lewis, G., & Maclagan, M. (2000). Determinism in new-dialect formation and the genesis of New Zealand English. Journal of Linguistics, 36(2), p. 300).
  4. Bayard, Donn (2000). "New Zealand English: Origins, Relationships, and Prospects" (PDF). Moderna Språk. Sweden: Linnaeus University. 94 (1): 8–14. ISSN 2000-3560. Retrieved 2010-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. BBC Publications and Faber and Faber: London, 1986.
  18. Bauer et al. (2007), p. 97.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009a).
  20. 20.0 20.1 Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009b).
  21. Bauer et al. (2007), p. 99.
  22. Bauer et al. (2007), pp. 98–100.
  23. This is also pronounced /eə/, especially amongst some young speakers with very cultivated accents.
  24. Many words that are pronounced with /ʊə/ in traditional RP are often pronounced with /oː/ in New Zealand English.
  25. Evans, Zoë; Watson, Catherine I. (2004). "An acoustic comparison of Australian and New Zealand English vowel change". CiteSeerX: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Crystal (2003), p. 354.
  27. Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 587 and 611.
  28. Trudgill & Hannah (2002), pp. 23-24.
  30. Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 582, 592, 610.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 Trudgill & Hannah (2002), p. 24.
  32. Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 589f.
  36. Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 582, 591.
  37. "Other forms of variation in New Zealand English". Te Kete Ipurangi. Ministry of Education. Retrieved 26 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 605.
  41. Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 594.
  42. 42.0 42.1 Kortmann et al. (2004), p. 611.
  43. Kortmann et al. (2004), pp. 606 and 609.
  44. The New Zealand accent: a clue to New Zealand identity? Pages 47-48
  55. "When is a pint not a pint? ", Ministry of Consumer Affairs
  56. "Is a pint really a pint in Wellington? ", 06/09/2012, The Wellingtonian
  57. Dignan, J. R. E.; O'Shea, R. P. (1995). "Human use of metric measures of length". New Zealand Journal of Psychology. 24: 21–25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  59. Entry "Spud" on Etymonline
  69. Kate Nixon (3 January 2011). "Queensland beach shack". Retrieved 21 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  70. judder bar. Collins English Dictionary — Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 3 September 2012 from
  77. Crystal (2003), p. 355.
  78. Kennedy, Graham & Shinji Yamazaki 1999. The Influence of Maori on the New Zealand English Lexicon. In John M. Kirk (ed), Corpora Galore: Analyses and Techniques in Describing English. Amsterdam: Rodopi: 33-44
  81. "Identifying Māori English and Pakeha English from Suprasegmental Cues: A Study Based on Speech Resynthesis", Szakay, Anita
  82. Jeanette King on the influence of Māori pronunciation on New Zealand English, 6/2/2010.
  87. Morel, Mary. "American and Australian spelling". Online Grammar. Retrieved 26 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  92. The fiord spelling was the normal one in English until the early 1920s, and is preserved in many place names worldwide. In New Zealand it is used in Fiordland, a rugged region in the south-west.


  • Bartlett, Christopher (1992), "Regional variation in New Zealand English: the case of Southland", New Zealand English Newsletter, 6: 5–15<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bauer, Laurie; Warren, Paul; Bardsley, Dianne; Kennedy, Marianna; Major, George (2007), "New Zealand English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (1): 97–102, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002830<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Cryer, Max (2002). Curious Kiwi Words. Auckland: HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd.
  • Crystal, David (2003), The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Deverson, Tony, and Graeme Kennedy (eds.) (2005). The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
  • Grant, L.E., and Devlin, G.A. (eds.) (1999). In other words: A dictionary of expressions used in New Zealand. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.
  • Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive, eds. (2004), A handbook of varieties of English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Leland, Louis S., jr. (1980). A personal Kiwi-Yankee dictionary. Dunedin: John McIndoe Ltd.
  • Mannell, Robert; Cox, Felicity; Harrington, Jonathan (2009a), An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Macquarie University<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mannell, Robert; Cox, Felicity; Harrington, Jonathan (2009b), An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, Macquarie University<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1997). The Dictionary of New Zealand English: a dictionary of New Zealandisms on historical principles. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-558380-9.
  • Orsman, H.W., (ed.) (1979). Heinemann New Zealand dictionary. Auckland: Heinemann Educational Books (NZ) Ltd.
  • Trudgill, Peter; Hannah, Jean (2002), International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English (4th ed.), London: Arnold<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • "Australian English and New Zealand English" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bauer, Laurie (1994), "8: English in New Zealand", in Burchfield, Robert (ed.), The Cambridge History of the English Language, 5: English in Britain and Overseas: Origins and Development, Cambridge University Press, pp. 382–429, ISBN 0-521-26478-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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