Being called a Pakeha is not an insult, a university survey of thousands of people on attitudes and values reveals.
Half of all the 6518 people surveyed preferred being called a "New Zealander" followed by Pakeha on 31 per cent and Kiwi on 24 per cent.
Among white New Zealanders, 53 per cent preferred to be known as a New Zealander.
The University of Auckland says its findings bust a recurrent myth that Pakeha is offered in a derogatory fashion.
"We found no evidence whatsoever for the suggestion that the term Pakeha is in any way pejorative or might reflect a negative attitude toward New Zealanders of European descent," says Chris Sibley from the university's School of Psychology.
He says the findings show that the choice by Maori to use the term Pakeha is linked to how strongly they identify as Maori.
Researcher Carla Houkamau says Maori prefer the term Pakeha to "New Zealand European", "Kiwi" or "New Zealander".
"The choice to use te reo is part of identity - rather than anything to do with Maori attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent. Maori also express very positive, warm attitudes toward New Zealanders of European descent generally, regardless of the label they use."
The word Pakeha has long sparked debate over its origins. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand says the word could have derived from pakepakeha (imaginary beings), pakehakeha (a sea god), keha (flea) or poaka (pig).
- Fairfax Media