Bora Bora Moorea Pacific Tahiti Travel

Useful Tahitian Words and Phrases

Long after leaving the luxury of Bora Bora or any of Tahiti’s enchanting islands, the local greeting Ia Orana plays in the mind like an enchanting melody. The Tahitian language has a musical intonation, and much like a siren’s song, it calls every so often.

Tahiti’s official languages are Tahitian and French. Although English is widely spoken in hotels and resorts, it is always worth learning a few words and phrases when speaking with the locals who appreciate it more than being addressed in French.

The Tahitian language is easy to pronounce. There are only five vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and eleven consonants (B, F, G, H, K, M, N, P, R, T, V) that have a similar pronunciation to English. The vowels are pronounced as in the words below:

  • A (ah) as in car
  • E (eh) as in rest
  • I (ee) as in see
  • O (oh) as in no
  • U (oo) as in crude

Here is a selection of common Tahitian words and expressions that I have collected during our stays in Moorea, Bora Bora and Papeete.  Each word is spelled out phonetically in brackets and translated into English.

Common Tahitian Expressions

Tahiti - Bora Bora - Mount OtemanuIa Orana (yo-rah-nah) – Hello
Maeva (mah-yeh-vah) – Welcome
Maururu (mah-roo-roo) – Thank you
Nana (nah-nah) – Bye/See you later
Manuia (mah-nwee-ah) – Cheers / To your health
E (ay) – Yes
Aita (eye-tah) – No
Uua here vau ia oe (oo-ah hay-ray ee-ah oh-ay) – I love you

Common Tahitian Words

Tahiti - Bora BoraFare (fah-reh) – the typical Tahitian house
Fenua (feh-noo-wah) – land
Iti (ee-tee) – small
Maohi (mah-ohee) – Tahitian person
Marae (mah-rah-eh) – temple
Moana (moh-wah-nah) – ocean
Motu (moh-two) – islet in the lagoon
Nui (noo-wee) – big
Pareu (pah-reh-yo) – local name for sarong
Pia (pe-ya) – beer, Hinano is the local beer
Poe (poh-weh) – pearl
Tamaaraa (tah-mah-rah) – Tahitian feast, luau
Tamurei (tah-mu-reh) – traditional dance
Tane (tah-neh) – man
Tiare (tee-ya-reh) – flower
Vahine (vah-hee-neh) – woman

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Other language guides: Useful Italian Words and Phrases


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.