Using the dictionary

Tips for understanding your search results in the dictionary.

About the dictionary

He Papakupu Reo Ture—A Dictionary of Māori Legal Terms is a bilingual dictionary of Māori legal terms and law-related vocabulary.

It’s different to other legal dictionaries because it doesn’t provide full definitions of legal terms. Instead, it gives you English language equivalents for Māori terms and a Māori language usage example.

It has a total of 2114 entries, including 1656 headwords. Find out more about how this dictionary was created.

Understanding your search results

Below are some of the elements you might find in your search results.


This is the first item of the entry. Some headwords might best be described as ‘parent’ headwords, because they have some additional phrasal items that include that headword nested underneath.

For example, under the headword pokanoa (unlawful, without authority), you will also find the nested entry, haere pokanoa (trespass).


Every effort has been made to show users when and how the headwords and phrasal items have appeared in the source texts of the Legal Māori Corpus. Source information is given with each example of use, so users can track the original if they so wish.

Each entry contains an abbreviated reference to the source of the usage example. Read more about the source information.


This is the English equivalent of the headword. All senses and phrasal items have glosses. The gloss reflects how the term is used in Māori. Noho muna is therefore glossed as ‘be confidential’ rather than ‘confidential’ because this best reflects how the Māori term is being used.

Usage examples

Usage examples are taken directly from texts in the corpus and provide valuable insight into how the term may be used. The usage examples may have been edited in the following ways.

  • Words or phrases may have been cut out to shorten the example. The elision is marked with an ellipsis (…).
  • Names have been replaced with [Mea] where appropriate to anonymise sensitive material.
  • If there is a spelling or grammatical mistake in the example, replacement text will be marked with square brackets to show that text was not part of the original entry.
  • Orthography has been standardised, to comply with the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori orthographic conventions. ‘Kooti’ appears as kōti, kaiwhakawā does not appear as ‘kai-whaka-wā’, ‘kai whakawa’, or any other variation.

Obsolete transliterations

Some entries do not include usage examples. These include titles and a small subset of terms that are obsolete transliterations such as wheroni (felony).

Such terms do not appear beyond 1910 (with a few exceptions that don’t appear past 1945), and the meaning and use of these terms are easily discernible without the assistance provided by a usage example.


If the headword appears frequently in the corpus with suffixes (such as ‘-tia’ and ‘-ngia’ in the case of passives, and ‘-nga’ and ‘-tanga’ in the case of nominal suffixes), these are listed as part of the entry.

Headwords that often appear in the Corpus with prefixes (such as ‘whaka-’ or ‘kai-’) have corresponding entries elsewhere in the dictionary.

For example, wātea (be unencumbered; vacant, unoccupied) can also be seen in whakawātea (alienate; discharge, suspend).


This dictionary has many terms that appear in the contemporary texts of the corpus, but do not appear in the historical texts. The obverse is also true. This information is conveyed in the entries as follows:

  • hist Historical: pre-1910

  • mid Middle: between 1910-1969

  • cont Contemporary: post-1970

When there is no temporal usage marker, the term features across all three time periods of the corpus.


Entries that include a shaded box are terms that also feature in the landmark work Te Mātāpunenga, a Compendium of References to the Terms and Concepts of Māori Customary Law (Victoria University Press, 2013).

This publication provides profiles of more than one hundred important terms that are in some way central to Māori customary law.

The text in the shaded boxes contains short paraphrases from its counterpart Te Mātāpunenga (TM) entry.