One of the things that I hear all the time over here in NZ is the phrase 'Choice'. Which is used in a similar way to great or fantastic or awesome. For example,

That party was choice!

I can't seem to find where it comes from. Does anyone have any clues, please?

One thought is that since the term 'bro' (as in 'brother') is often added to it, I suspect that, perhaps, it has ecclesiastical origins.

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    I don't really think that "brother" or "bro", as commonly used in informal English (not only in NZ) can really be seen as ecclestiatical. Sure, it can perhaps be traced back to African American vernacular, and from there perhaps to ecclesiastical roots, but it has long since lost that link, and any bro-related phrases are extremely secular, these days. Jul 22, 2012 at 6:28
  • The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary does not give a specific origin for this particular usage. However, I can assure you there is nothing ecclesiastical about it. To the best of my memory, it dates from the mid 1980s, but I couldn't tell you how it came to be part of NZ English.
    – user16269
    Jul 22, 2012 at 8:54

6 Answers 6


Choice is commonly used in BE to mean "of high quality"; butchers, for example, often advertise "choice cuts of meat". See http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/choice_4 .

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    Yeah, to me, this feels different from the New Zealand usage to which the OP refers. This word is used in quite a unique way in New Zealand. Sorry, but I can't explain this any better.
    – user16269
    Jul 22, 2012 at 11:48
  • Perhaps, but it doesn't seem to me to be a big leap to its transformation into a fashionable remark where saying 'choice' is similar to 'high quality!' Jul 22, 2012 at 22:23
  • A difference is that "choice" in "choice cut" can only be used attributively, whereas the NZ example uses it predicatively. (Also, "choice cut of meat" is perfectly standard AmE.) Jul 24, 2012 at 9:49
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    @Mechanicalsnail it seems the NZ usage is just an extension of the attributive usage to be usable predicatively with a similarly more inclusive semantic extension
    – nohat
    Jul 25, 2012 at 0:09
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    @Mechanicalsnail From Pat & Mike, Spencer Tracy on Katherine Hepburn: "There's not much meat on her, but what there is is choice." Jan 10, 2013 at 12:42

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2007) says its fairly recent:

choice! used for expressing strong approval NEW ZEALAND, 1998

Here's some slightly early examples from Usenet. From 1995:

Hey, another NZer! Choice Bro'...

From a 1996 'Are you are real kiwi test':

  1. What does 'choice' mean?
    a) Excellent


The Dept of kiwi immigration has but one word to say to you : CHOICE BRO (ok, technically two words but I never could count)

Lonely Planet's New Zealand guide (2010) gives a slang synonym, although as New Zealander David Wallace comments, chur isn't as strong as choice:

choice/chur – fantastic; great

Choice was also US slang with a similar meaning, could they be related? It can be found used by Americans in Usenet in the late 1980s and is defined in American Slang: Cultural Language Guide To Living In The USA (2005):

Choice: very nice; great; awesome. This cigar is choice. Management thinks you are choice for the job.

This is closely related to choice as in a choice cut of meat and choice words, as detailed in other answers.

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    +1 Other sources are here, here, here, and here. Jul 22, 2012 at 18:58
  • Yes thanks, but I'm looking for the etymology not the meaning. Jul 22, 2012 at 21:12
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    For the record, "chur" is not an exact synonym of "choice". It's not quite as strong in meaning - it's more like "ok, good", and in some contexts can even mean "thank you" (it may well be a corruption of "cheers"). But "choice" means "fantastic, wonderful".
    – user16269
    Jul 23, 2012 at 10:04

I would think it is fairly straight English. Found in expressions like choice morsel.

  • I've never heard that. Jul 22, 2012 at 11:19

The OED defines choice as an adjective as follows: Worthy of being chosen, select, exquisite, of picked quality, of special excellence. This seems to fit your usage. This is a very old word; they have citations for this sense going back to 1370:

1340–70 Alex. & Dind. 727 Him a chalis ful chois wiþ good chere bringen.

It may have fallen out of common usage before being revived as slang (perhaps acquiring new connotations in the process). But it is still around in standard English. For example, here in the U.S., the federal Department of Agriculture assigns quality grades to meat which include Select, Choice, and Prime.

Often, when obscure or obsolete words are revived as slang, they acquire meanings that are very different (radical, cool) or indeed opposite (sick, killer) to their literal meanings. But sometimes the literal meaning is intended (though sometimes exaggerated). The first example I thought of is heinous.


I agree with Tony Balmforth and would like to add that in OP's context, it is likely akin to sufer slang, although it still means "the best" in this vernacular.

Unfortunately, my copy of Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English has no entry for 'choice'.


I was in primary school when the word choice started being used in New Zealand. In my experience, it was first used by the Maori kids so to me it’s the Maori culture who first started using it. The same with cher, which I always thought came from Bob Marley; I could be way off with that one. Try following up on the beginnings down the Maori path, cher.

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    Welcome to ELU. I’m afraid that we very strongly prefer that postings here be in standard written English, with all the accoutrements thereof, not in txtspk. You know: capital letters where they go in proper written English, apostrophes where they belong, correct standard spellings, freedom from tpyos, no... grat...uit..ous... ellipses, no cnfsng abrv8shns, &c&c&c&c&c. Could you please edit your posting to fix these? HTH&HAND... kthxbai.
    – tchrist
    Jan 10, 2013 at 5:21
  • What is cher here? How is it pronounced, like share or like churr? What does it mean? And what decade were you in primary school, so we can track usage? —— (edit) Wait, you mean chur, don’t you? It’s some sort of laid-back version of cheers meaning ‘thank you’. In the States, people will sometimes half–tongue-in-cheekily say chur to mean sure, but pronounced with a ch- there instead of an sh-.
    – tchrist
    Jan 10, 2013 at 12:43

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