American Versus New Zealand Vocabulary

The New Zealand variation of English is called "New Zild" which is firmly based on British English.   For that reason, there are quite a few differences compared to American English, which resulted in a few blank looks in the first few years when I was speaking to Americans.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when learning American English is to imagine that there is such a thing!   There are many American Englishes, with regional variations in many parts of the country.   The differences I've noted below are all from experience, but they're not necessarily true everywhere in the country.   In the most unlikely places you'll find Americans using "New Zealand" vocabulary rather than the "American" vocabulary I've listed below!   I made the same mistake when I first came to America regarding "American" pronunciation.   I knew that there was a Southern accent, and I assumed that everyone else fitted into a pigeonhole which I labeled the Northern accent.   Of course there's no such thing, instead there's a New Jersey (perhaps I should say Noo Joisey) accent, a New England accent, a Mid-Western accent, a Minnesota or Northern Michigan accent, and a plethora of others!

Maori Words
Food and Cooking
Around the House
Cars and Driving
Around and About
Spelling Differences

Maori Words

One of the main things which separates New Zild from other types of English are the words borrowed from the language of the Maori, the polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand who arrived some 500 to 1000 years before Europeans.   The most striking evidence of these borrowed words is in the hundreds and hundreds of Maori placenames all over New Zealand, with some real tongue-twisters for the uninitiated, like Ngaruawahia, Paraparaumu, and the ultimate example: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, which translates into English as "the place where Tamatea, the man with big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'landeater,' played his flute to his loved one".   It's considered by most of the people who know about such things to be the longest place name in the world.

Actually, Maori place names are really easier than English place names to pronounce, because they're totally phonetic, only pure vowels are used and there are only 16 letters in the Maori alphabet! 

Here's a list of ordinary Maori words which all New Zealanders know:

Aotearoa New Zealand, "land of the long white cloud"
aroha love
haka dance
hangi food cooked in an earth oven
hui meeting
iwi tribe
kai food
kumara sweet potato
marae community gathering place with several buildings
mana pride, ability
nui big, great
pa fortress
pakeha European
paua abalone
poi ball with a string tied to it, swung (often in pairs) in intricate rhythmic patterns by women during a haka
tangi funeral
taniwha a water-dwelling monster
tapu sacred, from the same Polynesian word that provided the English word "taboo".
utu revenge
waka canoe
whanau family
whare house
wai water

But there are plenty of other differences between New Zild and American English which have nothing to do with the Maori language:

Food and Cooking

brown bread wheat bread
white bread white bread
mincemeat ground beef
beef patty salisbury steak
blue vein cheese blue cheese
brawn head cheese
bacon rasher bacon slice
(hot) chips (french) fries
hot dog corn dog
American hot dog hot dog
fish fingers fish sticks
crayfish lobster
filled roll hoagie
sub (New York)
poor boy (Louisiana)
spring roll egg roll
biscuit cookie
porridge oatmeal
icing sugar powdered sugar
golden syrup molasses
candy floss cotton candy
soft drink soda
pop  (Chicago)
soda pop
smarties M and Ms
jelly jello
jam jelly
capsicum bell pepper
sweet pepper
beetroot red beet
swede rutabaga
telegraph cucumber English cucumber
spring onions green onions
rock melon cantaloupe
kiwifruit kiwi
tasty cheddar cheese sharp cheddar cheese
to grill to broil
to barbecue to grill
takeaways takeout
carry out
chilly bin cooler
ice chest

Around the House

flat apartment
flatmate roommate
bog (very colloquial)
dunny (very colloquial)
tap faucet
tea towel dish towel
cupboard cabinet
bench counter
power socket electric outlet
electric lead electric cable
electric cord electric cord
electric cable electric cable
to ring somebody
to phone somebody
to phone somebody
garage sale yard sale
writing pad writing tablet  (but writing pad is used in Texas) 
guillotine paper cutter
rubber eraser
drawing pin thumb tack
torch flashlight
clothes peg clothes pin
duvet comforter
jersey sweater
jandals flip flops
running shoes sneakers
gumboots galoshes
togs bathing suit
snakes and ladders chutes and ladders
snakes and slides

Cars and Driving

bonnet hood
boot trunk
wing fender
windscreen windshield
window winder window regulator
accelerator gas pedal   (but accelerator is used in Texas)
hand brake parking brake
indicator blinker
towbar hitch
tyre tire
wheel nuts lug nuts
spanner wrench
jumper leads booster cables   (but "jumper cables" is used in some places)
split pin roll pin
petrol gas
to pink to lug
to top up to top off
to take away (food) to go
insurance excess insurance deductible
motorway freeway
roundabout traffic circle
zig-zag switchback
car park parking lot
judder bar speed bump
glove box glove compartment

Around and About

road surface pavement
pedestrian crossing crosswalk
power pole telegraph pole
lift elevator
elevator elevator
shop store
shop (Chicago)
shopping trolley shopping cart
dairy convenience store
toilet bathroom
tip garbage dump
wharf dock
jumbo bin dumpster
tramping hiking


bum bag fanny pack
haemorrhoids hemorrhoids 
nappy diaper
dummy pacifier
concrete block cinder block
gib/gib board/gibraltor board sheet rock
axe ax or axe (axe is used in Texas and elsewhere)
primary school elementary school
grade school
high school
high school
university college
staff room teachers' lounge
duster eraser
writing pad writing tablet
ground floor first floor
mum mom
post, postman mail, mailman
chippie carpenter
(cow) cockie farmer
birdwatcher birder
busker street musician
girl guide girl scout
stirrer troublemaker
bludger freeloader
ladybird ladybug
stick insect walking stick
slater pill bug
jellyfish jelly
statutory holiday holiday
smoko coffee break
flypast flyby, flyover
topdresser crop duster
cowpat cow chip
cow pie
dodgy flaky
pissed drunk
angry pissed
anti-clockwise counter-clockwise
counter-clockwise counter-clockwise
ousting ouster
bill (in a restaurant) check
flipper (footwear for divers) fin
out back in back
spat spit
dragged drug (in New Jersey and some other places)
sawn-off sawed-off
'.' = full stop '.' = period
'#' = hash '#' = pound
'!' = exclamation mark '!' = bang or exclamation mark

Spelling Differences

aluminium aluminum
centre, metre... center, meter...
cheque check
colour, flavour... color, flavor...
dived dove
dialogue dialog
focussed, focussing focused, focusing
grey gray
judgement judgment
maths math
moustache mustache
plough plow
programme program
staunch (to stop the flow of something) stanch or staunch
storey story (of a building)
traveller traveler
labelled labeled