Kia ora - two words that make a cultural connection in Aotearoa

Kia ora! In Aotearoa New Zealand these two little words slide easily off the tongue, but what do they mean?

Kia ora is a friendly greeting you'll hear throughout Aotearoa New Zealand that comes from the indigenous language, te reo Māori.

With the warm, welcoming tone of this simple, everyday phrase, you can say hello, express gratitude, send love and make a connection.

In its simplest form, kia ora means hello. But these two little words have a deeper beauty that signifies much more than just a passing greeting. In its literal sense, ‘ora’ refers to a state of ‘being alive’; add ‘kia’ and ‘ora’ becomes ‘living’ rather than ‘alive’.  So when you say kia ora to someone, you are wishing the essence of life upon them.

In Māori culture it's really important to acknowledge a person.

“By using the words 'Kia Ora' we acknowledge not just them, but everything about them including where they come from and who they come from,” explains Māori kaumatua (leader) Arekatera Maihi of Ngati Whatua ki Orakei.

Although the words' origins are steeped in history and meaning, kia ora is used as an informal spontaneous greeting throughout New Zealand, and you will hear everyone from the Prime Minister to the supermarket cashier using it in day-to-day conversation.

Locals enjoy hearing visitors use ‘kia ora’ too, as it’s a great way to connect with this land and people.

For many visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand, these two little words will help to define and enrich their holiday experience.

Watch: ‘Kia ora’ from Aotearoa New Zealand to hear why these two little words have such deep meaning.

About 'Kia Ora'

  • ‘Kia ora’ is from New Zealand’s indigenous Māori language.
  • Heard everywhere, it is an everyday greeting.
  • ‘Kia ora’ means more than just hello because it references life and health.
  • Use ‘kia ora’ to wish someone well as a greeting or farewell, to say thank you, to affirm support, or to say a friendly ‘cheers’. 
  • Use ‘kia ora’ to answer the phone or start an email.
  • New Zealanders appreciate visitors using it, as a connection to their culture.

Māori words and phrases to learn before you visit

  • Kia ora – Hello, thank you, cheers
  • Ka kite anō – See you again 
  • Kei te pēhea koe?  – How are you?
  • Kei te pai! – I am good! 
  • Ko wai tō ingoa? – What is your name? 
  • Ko …. ahau – My name is ….
  • Haere mai – Welcome, enter
  • Mōrena - Good morning
  • Manuhiri - Guests, visitors
  • Kai - Food
  • Aroha - Compassion, tenderness, sustaining love
  • Haka - Chant with dance for the purpose of challenge
  • Mana - Authority, power; secondary meaning - reputation, influence
  • Taonga – Treasure
  • Tangata whenua  - People of the land
  • Aotearoa – New Zealand, meaning land of the long white cloud
  • Manaakitanga - Respect for hosts or kindness to guests, to entertain, to look after
  • Haere rā – Goodbye