Kia ora

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External audio
audio icon Pronunciation at Kōrero Māori, the Māori Language Commission website

Kia ora (Māori pronunciation: [kiˈaɔɾa], approximated in English as /ˌkə ˈɔːrə/ KEE-ə-OR[1] or /ˈkjɔːrə/ KYOR) is a Māori-language greeting which has entered New Zealand English. It translates literally as "have life" or "be healthy",[2] wishing the essence of life upon someone, from one speaker to the other.[3] It is used as an informal greeting or farewell equivalent to "hi", "hello", or "goodbye" and can be used as an expression of thanks similar to "cheers". As a greeting of local origin, it is comparable to the term "g'day" (used in Australian and New Zealand English).[4]


Kia ora can be used to wish somebody life and health[2]—the word ora used as a noun means "life, health and vitality".[5] It might also be used as a salutation, a farewell or an expression of thanks.[6] It also signifies agreement with a speaker at a meeting, being as it is from a culture that prizes oratory. It is widely used alongside other more formal Māori greetings. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage website NZHistory lists it as one of 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know, and lists the following definition: "Hi!, G'day! (general informal greeting)".[4]

Kia ora can follow a similar pattern to address different specific numbers of people. By itself, it can be used to address any number of people, but by adding koe (i.e., kia ora koe); kōrua; and koutou one can specify a greeting to, respectively, a single; two; or three or more people.[7] Similarly, by following with tātou, one addresses all the people present, including the speaker themselves.[8]

Commercial use[edit]

New Zealand's national airline, Air New Zealand, uses Kia Ora as the name for its inflight magazine.[9][2] Water Safety New Zealand, a water-safety advocacy organisation, has a specific Māori water safety programme, Kia Maanu Kia Ora, which makes use of the literal meaning of kia ora, as their message translates as stay afloat; stay alive.[10]


In 1984, an Auckland telephone operator, Naida Glavish,[11] was instructed to stop using kia ora when greeting callers after the post office had received a complaint. She refused to do so and was consequently demoted, with the whole affair attracting much public interest. She was later given back her original job.[12] The Postmaster-General, Rob Talbot, convinced the then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon to overturn the prohibition on kia ora.[13]

In other languages[edit]

Kia ora has a similar meaning to the word kia orana, found in many related Polynesian languages such as Cook Islands Māori.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kia ora". Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  2. ^ a b c McConnell, Glenn (15 September 2017). "Kia ora is everywhere, but what exactly does it mean?". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  3. ^ "The meaning of kia ora". Tourism New Zealand. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b "100 Maori words every New Zealander should know". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Kia ora!". Te Puia. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Ngā Mihi – Greetings". Kōrero Māori. Archived from the original on 21 October 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Ngā Mihi – Greetings". Kōrero Māori. Archived from the original on 21 October 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  8. ^ "100 Māori words every New Zealander should know". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  9. ^ "KiaOra Air New Zealand inflight magazine". Bauer Media Group. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Maori". Water Safety New Zealand. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Naida Glavish – she wouldn't comply". E-Tangata – A Māori and Pasifika Sunday magazine. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  12. ^ Curtis, Makyla (2016). "The Poetics of Bilanguaging: an Unfurling Literacy Ngā Toikupu o Ngā Reo Taharua: e Tākiri ana te Aroā Pānui" (PDF). Ka mate Ka ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics. 14 (1).
  13. ^ Crean, Mike (22 December 2012). "Rob Talbot dies, top advocate for Sth Canty". The Timaru Herald. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Rarotonga". The Cook Islands website. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2013.