Usually I get my students to make up their own stories using new sentence structures – if the contexts are funny or relevant to their regular lives, they’re more likely to remember the lessons. So the other day one of my students was describing guy-meet-girl pub senario which ended with:
Ka mahi ai a Piripi i a Mereana
Ohmygod, I thought, I hope not.
While mahi ai can mean to copulate, to have sex, it wasn’t until I heard it that I realised how bad it sounded. You see, ai and ati also mean progeny and procreate; it sounded as if Piripi and Mereana ‘made babies‘, which I’m pretty sure is the last thing a one-night stand wants to have. By the way, this is where we get the words Ngāi, Ngāti, Te Ati and Aitanga.
Ngāi Tahu = Ngā ai a Tahu
The descendants of Tahu
Ngāti Tūwharetoa = Ngā ati a Tūwharetoa
The progeny of Tūwharetoa
Te Ati Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi
The descendants of Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi
Te Aitanga a Mahaki
The progeny of Mahaki
Even though ai can be translated as to have sex with, there is an implied meaning that it resulted in pregnancy as in narratives where we already know the outcome.
I aitia te wahine a Whakaue ko Rangiuru e Tūwharetoa.
Tūwharetoa had sex with Whakaue’s wife Rangiuru
(and she became pregnant with Tutanekai).
In modern contexts it can be used for either sex or to impregnate; just be careful, that’s how rumours start.
I aitia a Mereana e Piripi
Piripi had sex with Mereana
Piripi got Mereana pregnant
A more discrete way to describe a hook-up is using the word piri, which means to cling, stick, attach. It doesn’t mean that they had sex, just that they are (or were) together in some way.
I rangona kua piri a Mereana rāua ko Piripi inapō?
Did you hear that Mereana and Piripi got together last night?
If you wanted to emphasise that it’s serious between them you could use pūmau, meaning fixed, constant or permanent. It’s also used to describe loyalty and faithfulness in relationships.
Kua pūmau a Piripi rāua ko Mereana.
Piripi and Mereana have gotten serious.
He tau pūmau rāua.
They’re soul mates.
Another word used for sex is ekeeke. Eke means to mount (e.g. eke pahikara bike riding, or whakaeke marae go onto the marae). It’s used for mating animals not generally for people; if you do it will sound crass and explicit.
Ka arahia mai tana pūru kia ekeekea ngā kau.
His bull was brought over to mate with the cows.
I ekeeke rāua.
The most common word for sex is moe(a) which means to sleep with someone or to bed someone; however it also means to marry. You need to be very careful with this word!
I moe te tama ki te taha o tōna whaea.
The boy slept with (next to) his mother.
I moe te tama i tōna whaea.
The boy slept with (married) his mother.
A student once got cross with me because she wanted to differentiate between how long her and her partner had been together (in a de-facto relationship with kids) and how long they had been legally married. She wouldn’t accept that they’re the same thing in te reo.
From a Māori perspective, if you slept together, lived together and had children together, you were married – with or without a ceremony. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t split up but sharing a bed with someone was a serious commitment. If you want to specify an introduced tradition use an introduced word, mārena.
In a modern context you can use moe in a more casual way.
I moe a Piripi i a Mereana.
Piripi slept with Mereana.
Or use it to describe committed, living-together relationships (de-facto, civil union, marriage).
Kua moe a Piripi rāua ko Mereana.
Piripi and Mereana are ‘married’.