Nōku te Whiwhi – He Kīwaha

A couple of months ago we went through a bunch of kīwaha (idioms) at a noho, and included in that list was Nōku te whiwhi. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, but then someone used it in class a couple of weeks ago and now it is stuck in my head – which is useful for learning, but annoying because now I would like to think something else now please! So I’d thought I’d write a blog post and perhaps “unstick” it a little bit. 🙂

Like any colloquialism or idioim, a kīwaha doesn’t usually mean literally what it says. However, they’re useful to know – not only because you know more of the language and can speak more naturally, but because any memorised set phrase (waiata/song, kīwaha/idiom, whakatauki/saying, karakia/prayer) gives you a building block for understanding similarly structured phrases later on.

But first, what does it mean?!

Nōku te whiwhi

is a positive statement about how lucky you are. In class we translated it as I’m blessed but you could also say my gain, lucky me, I’ve got a beauty, I am fortunate (from MaoriDictionary). If you want to hear how to pronounce this kīwaha, you can listen on the entry on MaoriDictionary.

Whiwhi itself can also be translated in many ways, but boils down to meaning to have, get or gain but usually with a positive spin on it, for example to receive or win something.

Nōku means belonging to me, mine.

So you can see in our kīwaha that “te whiwhi” is “mine” or “I have the whiwhi”, which is to say, I have the luck, the blessing, the gain, the positive thing.

You can use this kīwaha in a variety of ways:

  • just by itself, as a statement when something good has happened
  • before a sentence describing why you’re blessed
  • as part of a longer kīwaha, such as:
    • Nōku te whiwhi, nōku te harikoa
    • Nōku te waimarie, nōku te whiwhi

If this kīwaha sticks in your head like it did mine, you now have a really handy grammar example for how to use nōku! For some reason it’s much easier to remember a kīwaha than a grammar rule – it might take a while before it sticks, but once it does then it’s really in there. Check out these simple examples that all follow the same form as Nōku te whiwhi:

  • Nōku te hē – the fault is mine, it’s my fault
  • Nōku te whare – it’s my house
  • Nōku te pōtae – it’s my hat
  • Nāku te pene – it’s my pen (note change of a/o category)
  • Nāku tēnā ngeru – that cat is mine
  • Nāku tenei tamariki – this child is mine

So next time someone picks up your book in class and asks whose it is, if you remember nōku te whiwhi, you’ll easily be able to say nōku tēnā pukapuka!



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