The Beautiful Cook Island Language: 10 phrases for your next trip!

Posted on 03/05/2019

Learn Cook Islands Maori

When travelling to any new country it’s always great to learn a few of the local phrases before you get there. It’s not only good for practical reasons but makes you feel fully immersed in the language and culture of the place you’re in. The Cook Islands are no different and the Cook Islands language, also referred to as Cook Islands Maori, is a lovely language to experience. To help you out, we’ve put together a few phrases that you can use during your next holiday here!

1. “Kia Orana” = Hello (Key-ah-o-raah-nah)

We start with the basics and the first thing you’ll probably hear when you land in Rarotonga. “Kia Orana” is the greeting used to say “hello” in the Cook Islands and is probably the one you’ll use most often without a doubt. The literal translation is actually “May you live a long and fulfilling life” which is a wonderful sentiment that typifies the Cook Island culture.

2. “Aere Ra” = Goodbye (Eye-ray-raah)

The next most frequent phrase you’ll probably hear is “Aere Ra” which means goodbye to someone who is leaving. You may use this yourself if you are the person who is staying and the other is leaving. If you’re the person leaving, however, you’ll say “E no’o ra”.

3. “Ka Kite” = See you later (Kah-kee-teh)

Another nice way of saying farewell to a friend or host in the Cook Islands is to say “Ka kite”. Readers from New Zealand will be familiar with this phrase where “Ka Kite Ano” is often used to say the same thing in Maori. Kiwis, therefore, won’t even need to memorise this as it’ll already be in the memory bank, ready for use!

4. “Meitaki” = Thank you (May-tah-key)

Cook Islanders are a very gracious, kind and polite people whose warmth you’ll undoubtedly feel as soon as you arrive. As a generous human being yourself, you’ll want to return such pleasantries which is where “Meitaki” or “Meitaki ma’ata” (which means “Thank you very much”) will come in handy.

5. “Ae” = Yes (Eye), “Kare” = No (Kah – ray)

These two are so simple we thought we’d put them together as one. “Ae” and “Kare” are the ways of saying “Yes” and “No” in the Cook Islands. You’ve probably never thought about it but you do get asked a surprising number of yes/no questions when on holiday, especially when there is a language barrier and the locals want to keep things simple. With “Ae” and “Kare” you’ll be able to oblige them with answers.

6. “Ko __ tòku ingoa.” = My name is  __ (Koh-Toe-koo-eeh-noa)

Stepping up a bit in difficulty, you may get asked by a local the question “Ko‘ai tò‘ou ingoa?”. This is the Cook Island way of saying “What is your name?”. The way to respond is to say “Ko John tòku ingoa.” which translates to “My name is John” (using your own name of course). It’s not that difficult really and a nice way to connect with the people you meet.

7. “’E a’a te moni i teia/te ra?” = How much does this/that cost? (Eh-ah-ah-teh-mon-eeh-eeh-teh-eeh-ah/ teh – rah)

When visiting the Cook Islands there’s a good chance you’ll do a bit of shopping while you’re there, especially if you’re checking out the local markets. If you’re at one of the local stalls and interested in their goods you can inquire about the price by saying “E a’a te moi i teia ra?”. If you’re pointing to something out of reach you can substitute “teia” for “te” (like “this” for “that” in English).

8. “Ta’i, Rua, Toru, ‘?, Rima” = 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Tah-ee, roo-ah, toh-ruu, ah, ree-mah)

Again while you’re out and about shopping or ordering food/drinks, you might find yourself wanting more of one thing. This is where knowing a few numbers can help. To stop you getting too carried away with your spending we kept it to 1-5 to start with which are “Ta’i, Rua, Toru, ‘?, Rima”. Again the Kiwis out there will recognise as being the same or very similar to Maori numbers which will again make things a bit easier.

9. “Tei ‘ea te pi‘a pà‘ì?” = Where is the bathroom? (Teh-eeh-eh-ah-teh-pee-ah-pah-eeh)

Another useful phrase to have handy is “Tei ‘ea te pi‘a pà‘ì?” with respect to bathrooms. There’s no real need to explain why this is helpful as it really is one of the essentials when travelling. It’s one of the more challenging phrases but once you get the hang of it you’ll be sorted for the whole trip.

10. “Kia Manuia” = Good luck (Key-ah-mah-nui-ah)

Last but not least we have “Kia Manuia”, the Cook Island way of saying “Good luck”. You’ll probably hear this a bit from the locals especially if you’re doing the more adventurous activities there (of which there are many). For you, it’ll be a good one to use on your friends and family you’re there with which might even get a bit of a laugh.

Cook Island phrases for your next trip!

So there you have it. 10 Cook Island phrases that’ll help you mix and mingle with the locals for your next vacation in the Pacific. We hope you get to use them all and look forward to seeing you here soon!