Te reo Māori pronunciation guide

Learn to pronounce Māori words correctly to become more confident using them. Find out how to pronounce Māori vowels, consonants and digraphs.

There are 15 distinct sounds within the Māori alphabet. They are:

  • five vowels: a, e, i, o, u
  • eight consonants: h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w
  • two digraphs (two letters that combine to form one sound): wh, ng

Vowels

While there are only five vowels, combinations of vowels (diphthongs) are common eg. au, ao, ea, oi, ua.

A vowel can also have a long or short sound. A long sound is usually denoted by a macron (a bar appearing over a vowel to indicate it is lengthened during pronunciation eg. ā as in wāhi).

Pronunciation

Vowels are pronounced as follows:

Short

A as in aloud
E as in entry
I as in eat
O as in ordinary
U as in to

Long

A as in car
E as in led
I as in peep
O as in pork
U as in loot

Consonants

Pronounce consonants as you would in English, with two key exceptions:

T The ‘t’ sound depends on which vowel appears after it. When it is followed by an ‘a’, ‘e’ or ‘o’, pronounce it with as little sibilant sound as possible (almost like a ‘d’). When it is followed by an ‘i’ or ‘u’, it includes a slight sibilant sound, but not nearly as much as an English ‘t’.

R Pronounced as a soft ‘rolled’ r.

Digraphs

The ‘ng’ digraph is pronounced as it sounds in the English word ‘singer'.

The ‘wh’ digraph originally sounded like the ‘wh’ in ‘whisper’, but in most dialects has evolved to be more like the English ‘f’ sound.

For further information about reo Māori pronunciation visit the Kōrero Māori website.