A Māori woman is disgusted after discovering a racist definition of the word "bro" in a 1997 version of the Oxford New Zealand Dictionary.

Julia Rahui's neighbour pointed out the discriminatory description in his copy of the Oxford New Zealand Dictionary: Words and their Origins, which said "bro" was a word "used by Māori young people or to or of Māori, especially among gang members, or among members of the extended family".

It continued: "One's Māori gang associates; Māori collectively (often used humorously or ironically)."

'This is the definition of BRO in the official Oxford New Zealand Dictionary 1997.' Photo / Julia Rahui / Oxford Dictionary
'This is the definition of BRO in the official Oxford New Zealand Dictionary 1997.' Photo / Julia Rahui / Oxford Dictionary

But a horrific example in the dictionary has enraged not just Rahui, but many others around the country.

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"'Hurry up bro' - spoken to a Māori adolescent who is raping his own sister", the 1997 dictionary states.

The 1997 edition uses a rape reference in the definition of the word 'bro'. Photo / Julia Rahui / Oxford Dictionary
The 1997 edition uses a rape reference in the definition of the word 'bro'. Photo / Julia Rahui / Oxford Dictionary

Rahui posted on Facebook about the disgusting find, writing "I'm not sure what status I could write that represents how **** I feel when reading this."

Im not sure what status I could write that represents how ***** I feel when reading this. This is the definition of BRO...

Posted by Julia Rahui on Monday, 18 June 2018

She told Newshub she was shocked at the choice of examples and said the definition paints a terrible picture around negative narratives of Māori.

"I was just like, 'What?'. I was in disbelief in how completely off they were in their choice of example," she said.

"It's such a widely distributed, official source of information, especially prior to the internet.

"Often it's hard to spot racism because it can be so subtle, but that was clear as in its negativity."

A spokeswoman for Oxford University Press, who published the Oxford New Zealand Dictionary, said they "sincerely regret" any offence the entry had caused. She stressed that the 1997 version was no longer in print.

"Dictionaries represent a record of living language at the time they are published. Oxford regularly updates its dictionaries to reflect changes in the meaning of words."

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The uses "in no way" reflected the views of the publisher, she said.

Despite the apology, many Kiwis have expressed their disgust at Oxford.

"Of all the examples he chooses 'raping his own sister' What the actual f**k. What about 'bro, pass the salt', or 'bro, that's a mean motorbike'. There are a lot of things that could have been used as an example," one person wrote.

Another wrote: "I find it really hard to believe that in '97 that it could have been so difficult to find examples of literature using the word 'bro' free from any negative stereotyping. That- THAT is what they had to settle on."

The latest version of the Oxford New Zealand Dictionary now defines "bro" as "a friendly greeting or form of address in Māori English".