As well as the words one would expect in a traditional dictionary, Te Aka has encyclopaedic entries including the names of plants and animals (especially native and endemic species), stars, planets and heavenly bodies, important Māori people, key ancestors of traditional narratives, tribal groups and ancestral canoes. Māori names for institutions, country names, place names and other proper names are also provided.
There are also explanations of key concepts central to Māori culture. Comprehensive explanations for grammatical items are included, with examples of usage, as are idioms and colloquialisms with their meanings and examples. These have all been included because they are important in communicating in a Māori context, and contribute to understanding and speaking the language in a natural way. Many of the separate meanings of each headword now have example sentences with translations.