Whakatauki / Whakatauaki


He ringa miti tai heke 
A hand which licks up the ebb tide
The people of Wanganui were experienced in handling their canoes in the strong tidal waters of the river, in contrast to those who were familiar only with more placid streams.  The paddles wielded by the crews 'licked up' the outflowing tide.


Hinana ki uta, Hinana ki tai         
Hinana to the interior, Hinana to the sea         
Hinana was the name of the pātaka of the Taupō chief Te Heuheu, and was almost a synonym for plenty.
Te Wai-iti umu tahu roa          
The ovens at Te Wai-iti keep on burning         
The district was famous for its supply of birds, and the ovens were always well supplied.         


Ko te kai a Māui, he ringaringa kau tāhanga          
The food of Māui, an empty hand         
Māui was an adept at playing games, including ringaringa, a game in which food is held in the hand and others guess which hand is full.  As Māui was always right, the proverb is applied to those whose guesses are correct.


He whatitiri ki te rangi, ko Te Arawa ki te whenua         
As thunder in the sky, so is the Arawa tribe on earth         
There was an occasion when an Arawa war party sang a song of defiance, and the TÅ«hoe people expressed their admiration in these words.


Advice (Parental)

Hinga iho, tomo atu i te pā kia mau koe ki te kupu a tou matua
With the strength of the enemy overcome, be quick to attack the pā 


Ka eke anō i te puke ki Ruahine
He is climbing the mountain of Ruahine 
He is growing older. 


Kia tōtōia ngā waewae o taku mokopuna hai whai taki 
Let the legs of my grandchild be massaged so that he may pursue the challenger 
Māori mothers massaged the limbs of their babies from birth to make them supple.  Agility was necessary when visitors came and teh challenger had to be pursued and caught before he could rejoin the ranks.


E moe ana te mata hÄ« tuna, e ara te mata hÄ« aua          
When the eyes of those who fish for eels are sleeping, the eyes of those who catch mullet are open 
The alertness of the mullet catcher is compared to those who stand on guard and are wakeful during a seige. 



He rei nga niho, he paraoa nga kauaeTe paki o Hewa
The fine weather of Hewa
A proverbial saying relating to good weather when all seems well, but the heart is troubled with anxiety. 


He kākā tino tangata
The ugly offspring
Appearances may be deceptive.  Though they may be ugly and unattractive, they come from a line of great chiefs.  The expression has the brevity and meaning of 'ugly duckling'. 


Ko Hine-ruhi koe, te wahine nāna i tū te ata hāpara
You are like Hine-ruhi, the woman who caused the wonder of the dawn to appear
Hine-ruhi was a woman so noted for her beauty that her fame passed on from one generation to another. 
Me te mea ko KōpÅ« ka rere i te pae 
Like the star Venus as it rises above the horizon
The beauty of a woman is compared to KōpÅ«, the star that heralds the coming of the morning. 
Ko Hine-tÄ«tama koe, matawai ana te whatu i te tirohanga          
You are like Hine-tÄ«tama; the eye glistens at the sight of you 
Hine-tÄ«tama was the dawn maid, the daughter of Tāne and the earth formed woman at the dawn of time.  A beautiful woman is compared to the first girl of the dawn. 

Beginnings (small) 

He ika kai ake i raro, he rāpaki ake i raro         
As a fish begins to nibble from below, so the ascent of a hill begins from the bottom 
Wars often rise from the most trifling causes.


Ka mahi te tawa uho ki te ririHe kotahi nā Tūhoe e kata te pō
A single man of TÅ«hoe causes laughter in the underworld
A few brave men of the TÅ«hoe tribe swell the ranks of the spirits who are sent to the underworld.  The TÅ«hoe warriors are noted for their fierceness.  The remark was first made by Rangiteaorere.
Ngā uri o Whakatau-pōtiki 
The descendants of Whakatau-pōtiki
Whakatau-pōtiki was a brave leader who attacked the Ä€ti Hāpai single-handed and burnt their famous house Te Uru-o-Manono.  Another chief of this name attempted to reach Te ArawÄ« pa at Kāwhia, which was occupied by Te Rauparaha and his Ngāti Toa.  He was killed by Takiwaru, the nephew of Te Wherowhero.  It is the earlier hero of this name, however, who was no doubt referred to in the proverb.


He mate i te marama 
The moon dies.  A moon-like death.
Though the moon dies, it comes to life again, but you cannot return, so do not expose yourself to danger.


Ko taku iwi tuaroa tÄ“nā 
That is my backbone
My backbone is sacred; do not dare touch it.


Kia kÄ« rourou iti a haere 
Please fill up the traveller's tiny food basket

These whakatauki were sourced from the following sources:

  • The Read Book of Maori Proverbs, Brougham A.E & Reed A.W
  • Maori.org.nz