/ ˈpɑːkɪˌhɑː /


  1. (in New Zealand) a person who is not of Māori ancestry, esp a White person

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Word History and Origins

Origin of Pakeha1

from Māori

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Example Sentences

I was the first pakeha who had ever arrived at a certain populous inland village.

Here the woman burst into tears, and the pakeha felt a strange swelling of the chest, which he could in no way account for.

Rangatira pakeha—A foreigner who is a gentleman (not a tutua, or nobody, as described above), a rich foreigner.

Next day the bishop went further up the river to Wherinaki, where Laming, a pakeha Maori, resided.

The survivors of the outwitted Maoris turned and fled, and the clever Pakeha was picked up and carried safely on board.


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About This Word

What does pakeha mean?

Pakeha is a Maori term for white people, especially New Zealanders of European descent.

How is pakeha pronounced?


Where does pakeha come from?

In the Maori language, Pakeha is recorded as early as 1817. Scholars have suggested it ultimately means “pale, imaginary beings resembling men,” a reference to a creature found in Maori mythology. Pakeha is also taken just to mean “stranger” in the language.

The popular misbelief that that the term translates to something more offensive like “white pig” has caused many in New Zealand to deem Pakeha offensive. During the late 1980s, there were two efforts to ban the word, including one led by a group within the New Zealand National Party.

In 1996, the New Zealand government added Pakeha as an option to census forms, causing a tremendous backlash that saw its removal in 2001.

A 2013 study conducted by the University of Auckland, however, found that there is no evidence that use of the word Pakeha by Maori is meant to be derogatory, and instead is “linked to how strongly they identify as Maori.”

How is pakeha used in real life?

Maori people are most likely to use Pakeha in a positive manner to identify a person as non-Maori (e.g., His mother is Pakeha but his father is Maori). Some white New Zealanders will also self-identify as pakeha, especially when expressing an affinity for Maori people and culture. Pakeha can also be a noun and adjective (e.g., Pakeha culture).

Outside of its use by the Maori, it frequently comes up in English-language discussions of the position, often marginalized, of Maori in New Zealand society.

More examples of pakeha:

“Inspired by the angry Pakeha freedom fighters of Devonport who are upset about the deal that will give Ngati Whatua some fenced-off land that no-one can access anyway, I wondered if I could work up a race-based sweat about the impending closure of TVNZ7, which is, after all, the Pakeha version of Maori TV”
New Zealand Herald, April 2012


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

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pak-choi cabbagePakeha Māori