How good is your Kiwinglish?

Wondering why the English don’t understand what you are saying? Read our guide on common Kiwi Slang and what the English make of our grasp of their mother tongue.


Every country has their own slang and terminology and while some of it may be similar to others, most of it will make no sense to a foreigner. New Zealand is no exception and, combined with the Maori language, visitors to our shores may well get a little confused when speaking with a local. It’s no different in the UK when Kiwis are talking to Brits.

Case in point. When I first arrived in the UK an English girl I had just met was going shopping and invited me along. I mentioned I really needed some new pants and she looked at me like I was a weird creep. It only dawned on me when we were actually shopping she thought I wanted to go underwear shopping with her.  This is a pretty simple example of different terminology for the same thing that is used around the world, pants in England means undies, pants in NZ means trousers.

Over the years I have found many people looking at me with a rather puzzled face as I try to explain what I was up to on the weekend.

How much of this conversation can you understand?

Cameron: Kia Ora Bro how’s it going?

Eric: Sweet as, had a tumeke weekend, got absolutely munted on Saturday night at my mates piss-up and started pashing this chick.

Cameron: Choice!

Eric: Yeah she was hot as, she took me back to her whare and we rooted all night. She then made me some kai in the morning.

Steve: Result.

Munter is one of my favourite’s. You can be a munter (basically a stupid person or a bit of a dick or a bit strange)


or you can be munted (this could mean tired, drunk, or just messed up in general).


Note, in the UK Munter is the term used to describe someone REALLY ugly, so be careful who you say it to.

Another typical Kiwi saying is Sweet As, now most English speaking people would understand this one, saying something is sweet means good but, by adding the “as” it becomes wholly Kiwi. I have never heard this anywhere else in the world and it’s a good indicator if you are unsure if the person speaking is Kiwi or Aussie. It can mean something is awesome, or it could even be used in answer in to a question “Can you shear that sheep mate? Sweet as bro”

When you start taking into account all the Maori words that are in common use among Maori and Pakeha (white people) today such as Kia Ora (hello) tumeke (awesome) puku (stomach) kai (food) it can get even more confusing.  With hundreds of Maori words used by non-Maori speaking people in regular day to day language, the typical Kiwi conversation may not even make sense to a UK based English speaker.

Another of my two favorite words are root and pash. Root or rooting meaning sex, and pash or pashing meaning kissing. Choice is cool, whare is a house and  kai is food. I don’t believe many non-kiwis would know or ever use these words to describe either of these actions.

So you can see that although you would probably understand the meaning when put into context without this it might be hard to understand a Kiwi conversation. There are many more examples I still use today to the frustration of my English partner. Jandel’s are flip flops, togs are swimming trunks and lollies are sweets. I still call the corner shops dairy’s and will always call crisps, chips. People ask how do you differentiate between hot chips and crisps but you just know. Trust me.

There are so many more examples and I won’t bore you with all of them but if you are a Kiwi, keep trying to confuse your English speaking friends and if you aren’t just embrace the quirkiness that is the Kiwi Language. We Kiwis have a strange relationship with the English language and have made it our own, just look at the Nek Minute video that came out a while ago for a great example of making an English phrase our own. I’m sure it will continue to evolve and soon I may even not understand half of the slang used.



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About the author

Try as they might, the UK government cannot rid themselves of this kiwi with a British passport. Alex Ward has been lurking in London for the last seven years, spending his time hunting out the best spots for eating, drinking, watching bands and partaking in any of the numerous activities that only London can offer. Feel free to check out his travel blog or find his musings on Twitter

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