1. (verb) (-ia,-ina) to perform the kawa ceremony, open a new house.
Nō te 23 o ngā rā o Ākuhata ka kawaia te whare nei (TTT 1/10/1922:7). / On 23 August the kawa ceremony was performed to open this house.
2. (noun) a ceremony to remove tapu from a new house or canoe.
Ko te tikanga o tēnei mea, o te kawa, e pure ana i te kawa tapu o Tāne kia noa (TTT 1/5/1930:2055). / The purpose of the kawa ceremony is to ritually remove the tapu of Tāne so that it becomes free of tapu.
(Te Pihinga Textbook (Ed. 2): 170-171;)
See also tānga o te kawa
3. (noun) karakia (ritual chants) and customs for the opening of new houses, canoes and other events.
Nā ngā kaumātua o Te Arawa i wewete ngā tapu o ōna whakairo, i karakia te karakia o te waere, te kawa, te toki, te takapou (TTT 1/10/1922:8). / The elders of Te Arawa removed the tapu from its carvings, recited the incantations of the waere (clearing the tapu of the building), of the kawa (calling on the powers to ruruku, or bind together, the uprights and rafters of the building), the toki (incantation addressed to the tree from which the carvings were made using the toki, or axe) and the takapou (incantation lifting the tapu to enable the entry of women into the house and spreading the mat of occupation and use).
4. (noun) marae protocol - customs of the marae and wharenui, particularly those related to formal activities such as pōhiri, speeches and mihimihi. This seems to be a modern extension of the word.
Kāti, nō te taenga mai o Kuīni Irihāpeti Te Tuarua ki Rotorua i te 2 o Hānuere 1954, takahia ana e Heke te kawa, he ruarua nei ngā miniti e hauoraora ake ana tana kōrero ki te Kuīni mō te takoha roera, arā, mō te tokotoko hiriwa (TTR 2000:27). / Well, when Queen Elizabeth II arrived at Rotorua on 2 January 1954, Heke broke protocol by speaking animately to the Queen for several minutes about the royal gift of the silver cane.