Papakupu Maori

Commercial Māori language projects hold our people to ransom for what is our birth right – our language

 The Papakupu is a Māori Language Dictionary that consists of headwords from published Māori dictionaries , databases, glossaries and Iwi dictionaries. It is estimated there will be over 150,000 unique headwords with each headword consisting of up to 20 different English definitions sourced from over 290 different published and unpublished publications.

The Papakupu consists of 5 times more headwords than the largest Māori dictionary available to date and more than 8 times more than other mainstream Māori dictionaries.


This is the platform Māori dictionary that will supersede all other electronic and paper Māori dictionaries.


Initially the Papakupu will be searchable and online with a Māori to English version for browsing. It is envisaged that it will be made available as a paper based publication in the future and be available as Māori to English and English to Māori.

As opposed to concentrating on one specific genre, the Papakupu has all Māori words including Loan Words, Contemporary, Traditional, specialist vocabulary. There are currently several Iwi dictionaries that will also be separated from the main corpus.

Each definition and headword is associated with a genre or multiple genre as appropriate to allow for easier word association and quick compilation of specialist dictionaries for those who require it. Some of the genre include ICT, place names, science, Marine, Insects, Food , implements and War.

Experts for each genre will be sought to provide more detailed information and to act as Kaitiaki for the genre. An example is the Plants genre will have a Botanist ensuring the information is up to date and relevant. War terms will utilise the services of a returned serviceman or a current soldier as well as an expert in traditional Māori warfare.

Each headword/definition and example sentences are attributed to the referenced source. If a word appears in several publications then all sources are referenced.

Extra options are available to view the phonetics of each word, video and images of the headword. In the future an audio feature will also be made available based on the phonetics.

Many organisations also have to create their own specialist glossaries for their own use. A facility is available for these organisations to submit their glossaries with further avenues currently being explored with how to approach these organisations for co-operation to share their work.

 Why the Papakupu

Personally I have never understood why we need to have multiple paper dictionaries, sometimes coupled with electronic dictionaries (some of which are pay per search) to adequately study te reo Māori. A student can spend hundreds of dollars and have a small library of Māori dictionaries to learn to speak Māori. A student of English and many other spoken languages only requires one Dictionary.

Nor have I understood why all the new terminology (kupu hou) that is created by authoritative entities seem to end up exclusively in the hands of commercial publishers and in copyright or protected by gate keepers so that the general public have no idea of the existence of the kupu hou until a new and expensive specialised Māori dictionary is published or an expensive subscription to a database is required.

Using my experience and ideas from compiling and developing Te Reo Tupu (1997-1999) and the initial management of the Pataka Kupu (2000-2001) I am now creating what I believe to be the most comprehensive and needed te reo Māori resource possible.



Statistics of some of the more popular Māori Dictionaries are referenced below to be used as a comparison to the Papakupu project.


Ngata 16,795 English to Māori headwords (includes multiple duplicates) with a number of definitions.
Williams 16,408 headwords (includes multiple duplicates) with a number of definitions.
Ryan 24,000 (aprox) unique Māori to English headwords with multiple English definitions.
Biggs 35,802 Māori to English headwords.
Te Reo Tupu 45,321 English to Māori and Māori to English headwords.
53,328 Māori definitions with duplicates.
53,304 English definitions with duplicates.
If Te Reo Tupu was Māori to English there would be
53,328 headwords. It is estimated that over 30% of these are duplicates.
He Papakupu Māori 150,000 (estimated) unique Māori to English headwords with multiple English definitions. Some headwords with up to 20 unique definitions.


One response to “Papakupu Maori”

  1. Ratu says:

    Yes I think an input where attributions can be secured immediately is far better than attribution by accident. which is what has been happening for a long time. Also diversity is an essential element of the evolving new word thing. People will choose which word provides the closest link to an idea. I have used áketia’ to upload and ‘ihotia’ to download since it makes sense to me and its short and concise and indeed precise enough. And the attribution could look something like this: aketia, verb, upload, computer, 21 Jan 2013, Long hand: [ Maori word: aketia], [grammar: verb] ,[ upload: meaning], [computer: dictionary] [date conceived, dmy] and [creator:]. Ngata dictionary is extremely convenient to use, on the internet, though often notional and imprecise. or use dictionary conventions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *