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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The vocabulary of New Zealand English has been influenced by changes in the usage of traditional English words which have acquired new meanings and by the adoption of Maori words and phrases; by infiltration of words and idioms from the U.S., and by contact with Australia. Familiar examples of the first group are mob, creek, paddock, and bush, all of which acquired their new meaning first in Australia. Examples of the native words now in general use are the names of birds, fish, plants, and trees: kea, tui, hapuku, tarakihi, koromiko, raupo, and kauri. It is not likely that this element in the vocabulary will ever increase much. Under the heading of Vocabulary may be included the preferences shown for certain English words in ordinary use such as village for the shopping centre in suburbs and the very frequent use of the playful wee for “little” as in “a wee while” for “a little time” or “a short time”. The back-country runs have quite a vocabulary of their own which was studied and put on record by L. G. D. Acland as an appendix to his Early Canterbury Runs. Among these are the terms run or station, terms which the New Zealanders took over from Australia, terms like cow paddock and horse paddock and tea-oh and township which, like most of these terms, took on their special use in Australia. Perhaps the most useful and expressive of our loans from the Maori is mana, reputation, honour, etc.; another is haka, now becoming well known wherever our football teams go.

Some of our specially New Zealand words have curious and quite unexpected histories. For example, shanghai, a catapult, imported from Australia, proves to be a Highland Scottish word shangie for a forked stick used to keep a dog's tail down. Rikka, the bushman's word for a young kauri, long supposed to be a Maori word, turns out to be an English dialect word for a pole, apparently introduced by workers from England in the kauri timber trade as long ago as the 1790s.