By Ben Douglas

Nau mai hoki mai ki tēnei hōtaka o Kōrero ki ngā Maunga! Hi everyone and welcome back to this instalment of Kōrero ki ngā maunga, tips for Māori language in the outdoors. In this issue, we will be looking at the language associated with maunga, mountains.

Ngā Maunga: mountains

‘Hokia ki ngā maunga, kia purea e koe i ngā hau o Tāwhirimatea’ (return to the mountains to be cleansed by the winds of Tawhirimatea) is a Māori whakatauki or proverb that would resonate with most of us in the outdoor community. Time in the mountains is hard to beat for recharging the batteries with a good physical challenge and reconnection to nature.

As such prominent features in the landscape, mountains are deeply embedded in many cultures, with Māori culture being no different. Mountains play a central role in many legends: they are used in pēpeha (recitals of tribal identity) to convey a person’s place of origin, and are often used to delineate tribal boundaries.

Here is some language that may come in handy next time you’re in the mountains. Use the pronunciation tips to have a go at saying them.


Maunga: mountain
Paemaunga: mountain range
Puke: hill
Taumata: a peak
Pūroto: small lake or tarn
Huka: snow
Teitei: lofty, tall
Ataahua: beautiful

Some well known mountains:

And some phrases:
He maunga: a mountain
He maunga ataahua: a beautiful mountain.
He maunga teitei: a lofty mountain.

Pronunciation tips:
*Start with the basic vowel sounds (are,
ear, ee, oar, ooh)
*Join them together for blends (i.e. ao =
*The ‘R’ is always rolled in te reo Maori. It shouldn’t be too difficult, especially for those of us with Scottish heritage. If you have trouble, try replacing the R with a soft D.
*The ‘NG’ blend is pronounced like the ‘ng’ in ‘sing’
*A macron accent indicates that the sound of the vowel is lengthened and can completely change the meaning of a word. For example, huhu = the grub; huhū = a swishing or humming sound.
*Typing a Māori word into the search engine at will allow you to listen to a fluent speaker pronouncing it.

Ko tātou tēnā mo te wā nei! That’s all for this issue. In the next Backcountry we’ll be looking at the language of coastlines. In the meantime, if you want to take your learning to the next level, be sure to check out the great online learning resource at

Mā te wā, Ben

Ben Douglas is a keen hunter and conservationist with an interest in Māori language and culture, particularly in relation to the outdoors. This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of FMC’s Backcountry magazine. To subscribe to the print version, please visit

Photo: Peter Laurenson, Aoraki-Mount Cook from the Sealy Range