Hawaiian Terms

Use the following glossary to familiarize yourself with common Hawaiian words.

Hawaiian Words and Their Meanings

Aloha

A greeting, also used when parting. Both hello and goodbye. Love.

Mahalo

Thank you.

The Islands:

O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe.

A

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‘aina

The land, earth. eg. Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. (Hawaii’s state motto.)

‘akahi

One. (Especially when counting in a series.)

ali’i

Ancient Hawaiian royalty.

aloha

A greeting, also used when parting. Both hello and goodbye. Love.

‘alua

Two. Twice.

‘au’au

To bathe or take a shower. eg. Gotta go ‘au’au after fishing all day.

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‘eha

Four. Four times.

‘ekahi

One. Once.

‘ekolu

Three. Three times.

‘elima

Five. Five times.

‘elua

Two. Twice.

ewa

An area west of Honolulu. (Used as a directional term.) eg. Head ewa on H-1 and take the Waikele offramp to the outlet stores.

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hala

The pandanus tree, whose leaves are plaited into mats, baskets and hats.

halau

A long house for canoes or hula instruction. Often used to refer to hula troupes. eg. A halau from Kauai took second place in the 1996 hula festival on the Big Island.

hale

House. eg. It’s appropriate that Honolulu’s City Hall is called Honolulu Hale.

hapu’u

An endemic tree fern, common in many forests of Hawai’i, and now frequently cultivated.

haole

Originally, a foreigner, but the term is now used mainly to depict blondes or Caucasians.

hihiwai

An endemic grainy snail found in both fresh and brackish water.

ho’oponopono

To correct.

hui

A club, association or group.

hukilau

A net; to fish with a net.

hula

A lovely Hawaiian dance form.

huli

To turn or flip over.

humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua’a

This is Hawaii’s state fish, whose nose is shaped like a pig’s.

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imu

An underground oven. eg. The kalua pig at the luau was cooked in an imu.

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kahuna

A priest, minister or expert in any field. eg. A kahuna was asked to bless the site before construction began.

kahuna lapa’au

A healer or doctor.

kai

Sea, near the sea.

kalua

To bake in an underground pit or oven. Often used to describe pig served at lu’aus.

kama’aina

A native-born or longtime Island resident.

kane

Man or men. eg. Go through the door marked kane, not wahine.

keiki

Child or children.

kiawe

Algaroba tree. Like mesquite, its wood is often used to barbecue.

kokua

Assistance, help. eg. We need your kokua. Please don’t litter.

koloa

Hawaiian duck. Considered an endangered species.

konohiki

Headman of an ahupua’a (land division).

kukui

Candlenut tree bearing nuts containing oily kernels formerly used for lighting by ancient Hawaiians. eg. Polished kukui nuts are often used to make leis.

kuleana

Small piece of property.

kumu hula

Teacher of Hawaiian dance. eg. Our kumu hula is strict, but a gentle spirit.

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la’au lapa’au

Medicine. Curing medicine.

laua’e

A fragrant fern whose pieces were often strung in pandanus leis.

laulau

A combination of pork, beef, chicken and/or fish, wrapped in luau leaves and steamed.

lei

A flower necklace. eg. Each of her friends gave her a lei at the graduation ceremony.

liliko’i

Passion fruit used for desserts and beverages. eg. Order the liliko’i juice; it’s exotic.

lokahi

Unity. To blend opposites.

lomilomi

Massage. eg. Ah, after a tough day at work, I could use some lomilomi.

lua

Bathroom, toilet. eg. He went to the lua about an hour ago….wonder if he’s coming back to work.

luna

A foreman, boss or supervisor. eg. Get busy; here comes the luna.

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mahalo

Thank you.

makai

Towards the ocean. (Used in giving directions.) eg. Turn right on Kalakaua Ave., go two blocks, then makai on Royal Hawaiian.

mahimahi

A dolphinfish. A very popular dish with both visitors and locals alike.

malihini

A newcomer or visitor.

mauka

Towards the mountains. (Used in giving directions.) eg. The hotel is on the mauka side of the street.

moe moe

To go to bed or go to sleep. eg. I was so tired after pau surf I went moe moe.

moi

Known as the “Fish of Kings” This was the most prized fish in ancient Hawaii and reserved for nobility only. It was kapu (forbidden) to eat by anyone other than ali’i.

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‘ohana

Family.

‘ono

Delicious, tasty, savory. eg. The laulau was ono! Alternate: Often used to refer to a popular game fish caught in Hawaiian waters. Known elsewhere as the Wahoo.

opae

Shrimp. eg. They caught some opae to use as bait for the ono.

‘opakapaka

Pink snapper. eg. The special of the day is steamed ‘opakapaka sprinkled with crushed almonds and served on a bed of rice pilaf or the pasta of your choice.

‘opihi

Limpet. Plucked from shoreline walls and eaten raw. eg. ‘Opihi make great pupus (appetizers.)

‘opu

Stomach. eg. Santa got a big ‘opu from eating so much laulau, fish and poi.

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papio

A small ulua. Usually under 15 pounds in weight.

pau

Finished. eg. All pau. What’s next?

pau hana

Finished with work. eg. Yeah!, pau hana time. Let’s hit the surf.

pikake

A shrub with small, white, very fragrant flowers. eg. Her pikake lei smells so good.

piko

Umbilical cord, navel.

pipi kaula

Beef salted and dried in the sun. Broiled before eaten.

pohaku

Rock, stone.

poi

A Hawaiian staple made from cooked taro.

poke

Raw fish chunks mixed with seaweed. eg. Let’s put a little bit of chili pepper in with the poke for more flavor.

po’okela

Best, supreme, foremost.

pua’a

A pig or hog.

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tutu

Grandmother.

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‘ukulele

A musical Hawaiian string instrument, introduced by the Portugese.

ulua

A species of jack trevalle. Popular game fish rarely caught exceeding one hundred pounds in weight. eg. We caught two huge ulua and a few smaller fish today.

‘ulu maika

Stone used in playing the maika game (bowling). eg. Visitors can play ‘ulu maika at some luaus.

umeke

Bowl, calabash, as of wood or gourd.

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wahine

Woman or women. eg. The Rainbow wahine are one of the top ranked volley ball teams in the nation year after year.

weke

Several species of edible, goatfish that inhabit Hawaiian reefs, characterized by a red color or striped markings.

Places

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Wailuku:

Pronounced “why-loo-koo” Waters of destruction

Makawao:

Pronounced “mah-kah-wow” Beginning of the forest

Pukalani:

Pronounced “poo-kah-lah-nee” Heavenly gate

Lahaina:

Pronounced “lah-high-nah” Cruel sun

Waikiki:

Pronounced “why-kee-kee” Spouting water

Haleakala:

Pronounced “ha-lay-ah-kah-lah” House by the sun.

Honolulu:

Pronounced “ho-no-loo-loo” Protected bay

Waimea:

Pronounced “why-may-ah” Reddish water

Kailua:

Pronounced “ky-loo-ah” Two seas

Makaha:

Pronounced “mah-kah-hah” Fierce

Kona:

Pronounced “koh-nah” Leeward

Mauna Kea:

Pronounced “maow-nah-kay-ah” White Mountain

English to Hawaiian

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Waterfall:

wailelePronounced “why-lay-lay”

Food:

ai Pronounced “eye”

House:

hale Pronounced “hah-lay”

Family:

ohana Pronounced “oh-hah-nah”

Fresh Water:

wai Pronounced “why”

Flower:

pua Pronounced “poo-ah”

Love:

aloha Pronounced “ah-loh-hah”

Hands:

lima Pronounced “lee-mah”

Nose:

ihu Pronounced “ee-hoo”

Eyes:

maka Pronounced “mah-kah”

Mouth:

waha Pronounced “wah-ha”

Ears:

pepeiao Pronounced “peh-peh-ee-ow”

Land:

aina Pronounced “eye-nah”

Sea:

kai Pronounced “ky” like “sky”

Tooth:

niho Pronounced “nee-hoe”

Sun:

la Pronounced “lah”

Moon:

mahina Pronounced  “mah-hee-nah”

Star:

hoku Pronounced “hoe-koo”

Rainbow:

anuenue Pronounced “ah-noo-eh-noo-eh”

Sand:

one Pronounced “oh-ne”

Stomach:

opu Pronounced “oh-poo”

Stone:

pohaku Pronounced “poe-hah-koo”

Wave:

nalu Pronounced “nah-loo”

People:

Man:

Kane Pronounced: “kah-nay”

Woman:

Wahine Pronounced: “wah-hee-nay”

Child:

Keiki Pronounced: “kay-kee”

Elder Relative:

Pili Mua Pronounced: “pee-lee moo-ah”

Local Person:

Kamaaina Pronounced: “kah-mah-eye-nah”

Visitor:

Mea kipa Pronounced: “may-ah kee-pah’

More questions? Please contact us.