The Basics

The Hawaiian language is derived from an ancient Polynesian precursor language. Visitors to the islands are often embarrassed to attempt to speak many of the words. This site was developed to provide visitors to the islands a place to hear the common Hawaiian words spoken out loud by native Hawaiian language experts.

Hawaiians are very proud of their language and culture and tend to be very forgiving and welcoming of all outsiders. Anyone who shows an interest in learning the language and culture tends to be embraced. In general, if you speak a Hawaiian word with a smile and Aloha, it’s OK– you can’t be wrong

Humpback Tail

First, some basics of the Hawaiian language. The 5 vowels a,e,i,o and u as well as the 7 consonants h,k,l,m,n,p, and w make up the entire Hawaiian alphabet. In the Hawaiian language a consonant is always followed by a vowel which also means all Hawaiian words end in a vowel.

Names and words are more easily pronounced when they are broken down into single syllable chunks. Sometimes the letter W is pronounced the same as V as in the traditional pronunciation of Hawai’i which is phonetically pronounced huh-vi-ee rather than huh-why-ee. Both versions are considered acceptable.

a: “ah”
e: “eh”
i: “ee”
o: “oh”
u: “oo”

a – ah, as in father: aloha
e – a, as in may: nene
i – ee, as in bee: honi
o – oh, as in so: mahalo
u – oo, as in spoon: kapu

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Essential Hawaiian Words

Anyone planning to visit the islands should learn how to pronounce the following words that are widely used:

Listen Hawaiian Word English Translation
Aloha Love, affection, hello, goodbye
Mahalo Thank You
Makai Towards the sea; the ocean side.
Mauka Towards the mountain; the side facing the mountain.
E Komo Mai Welcome!
Pau Done, finished
Hana Work
Pau Hana Work is done
Hana hou Encore, do it again. The name of Hawaiian Airlines magazine.
Aina Land–especially Homeland
Kamaaina One of the land. Native-born but also used as a long-term resident of Hawai'i.
Akamai Smart, clever
Alii Chief
Hale House or home.
Haole Literally, means a person without a country or of known beginning. Often used to identify a person of Caucasian ancestry but is incorrect.
Honu A turtle–especially Hawaiian green sea turtle.
Hula Hawaiian dance
Kahuna Expert, usually refers to a priest, minister, or person held in esteem.
Kane Man
Wahine Woman, female
Keiki Child , children
Kuuipo Sweetheart. Often used on jewelry–especially the Hawaiian bracelets worn by wahine.
Malama To take care of, to tend. Mālama aina: to care for the land.
Kapu Forbidden. Do not enter.
Kokua Help, aid, provide assistance.
Kuleana Responsibility
Lanai Porch, patio, or balcony. Usually at the back of the house.
Lei A necklace, usually, of flowers. Also, shells or kūkui nuts.
Luau Hawaiian feast or party
Maikai Excellent, goodness. Sack and Save grocery has a Maika'i discount card.
Malihini Newcomer, visitor
Ohana Family, kin, relative
Ono Good or tasty as in ‘ono grinds (food).
Paniolo Hawaiian cowboy
Poi A paste made from Taro root. A mainstay of the traditional Hawaiian diet.
Pakalolo Marijuana
Pupu Snacks or appetizers
Pupule Crazy (especially referring to a mentally deranged person).
Tutu Grandparent (affectionate)
Uku Fleas or head lice (as in ‘undesired’ little critters in your hair').
Wikiwiki Speedy or fast. Honolulu Airport has a Wikiwiki shuttle.


The word “Aloha” is one that is very difficult to define but is very special to the Native Hawaiians. In the Hawaiian language, aloha is not just a greeting or a word to convey love, hello, or goodbye. It has other meanings including, compassion, mercy, grace.

“Aloha” actually comes from two Hawaiian words: “alo” — which means the front of a person, the part of our bodies that we share and take in people. And “ha”, which is our breath. When we are in each other’s presence with the front of our bodies facing, we are exchanging the breath of life. So, instead of a word, it’s more of a feeling.

When used in concert with other words, a specific meaning as can be seen as follows:

Listen Hawaiian Word English Translation
Aloha kākou Aloha to all (including myself) Warmest welcome. Usually said to a group of people. Hawaiian Airlines uses this on all flights.
Aloha kāua Aloha to you (singular) and me
Aloha nui loa Very much love, fondest regards

Common Hawaiian Words and Phrases


Click on the “Play” button to hear these common Hawaiian words as spoken by a native Hawaiian language expert.

Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
A hui hou Until we meet again
A hui hou kākou Until we meet again–said to a group
A‘ā Sharp jagged lava rock
‘A‘ole pilikia You're welcome/No problem
‘Ae Yes
Ahupua‘a Land division
‘Āina Land, especially Hawaiian ancestral lands
Akamai Smart, Clever, Intelligent
Akua God
Ala Road, way, path
Alelo Tongue, language.
Ali‘i Chief, chiefess, or royalty
Aloha Love, affection; greeting, salutation; Hello! Good-bye!
Aloha ‘auinalā Good afternoon
Aloha ‘oe Farewell to you
Aloha ahiahi Good evening
Aloha ‘āina Love of the land; to nurture and care for the land.
Aloha au ia ‘oe I love you
Aloha kakahiaka Good morning
Aloha nui loa Very much love
‘A‘ole pilikia No problem, no trouble.
‘Auana Modern; Especially relating to hula.
‘Aumakua Ancestral spirit, family or personal gods
E Komo Mai Welcome! Enter
Hālau Long house, as for canoes or hula instruction; meeting house
Overlooking Waimea Canyon State Park on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, USA, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Overlooking Waimea Canyon State Park on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, USA, nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
Hale House, building
Hana Work
Hana hou Encore, do it again.
Hānai Adopted, to raise, rear, feed
Haole A foreigner; Pidgin slang – Caucasian
Hapa haole Person of mixed racial ancestry
Hāpai To carry, pregnant
Hau‘oli lā Hānau Happy Birthday
Hau‘oli lā Ho‘omaha loa Happy Retirement
Hau‘oli lā Ho‘omana‘o Happy Anniversary
Hau‘oli Happy, glad, joy
Hau‘oli Hanukaha Happy Hanukkah
Hau‘oli Hanukaha me ka Makahiki Hou Happy Hanukkah and New Year
Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou Happy New Year
Hehena Raving mad, possessed, lunatic
Heiau Pre-Christian shrine or place of worship
Hele Move, go, travel
Hiapo First Born
Hina To fall, topple over from an upright position
Hoaloha Friend
Hō‘ike Show, display
Hōkū Star
Holoholo Out on a lark, fishing, to wander
Honu Turtle
Huhū Angry
Akaka Falls in Hawaii
Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
Hula The dance of Hawaii
Huli-huli Rotisserie or 'end-over-end' as in chicken cooked this way.
Humuhumunukunukuapua'a The State fish. A Triggerfish.
I'a Fish
Imu An underground oven you will see at a luau
Kahiko Ancient hula dance
Kahu Guardian, leader, minister
Kahuna Expert. A priest, minister, or an expert at any profession
Kai Sea, sea water; seaside
Kālā Money
Kala mai ia‘u Excuse me
Kalo Taro
Kama‘āina Commonly referred to a long-time resident of Hawai'i.
Kāne A man or boy
Kanikapila Musical jam session
Kapa Cloth made from the bark of the wauke tree
Kapu Sacred, taboo, forbidden, no trespassing
Keiki Child, offspring, or children
Koa Warrior
Kōkua Help, aid, assistance, relief.
Kolohe Rascal
Kuleana Responsibility
Kulikuli Be quiet! Shut up!
Kumu Teacher
Kupuna Grandparent, ancestor


Red hot lava flowing into Pacific Ocean on Big Island, Hawaii
Red hot lava flowing into Pacific Ocean on Big Island, Hawaii
Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
Ku‘uipo Sweetheart
Laki Lucky
Lanai A porch, patio, or balcony
Lani Sky, the heavens
Lau Leaf
Laule‘a Peaceful, happy
Laulima Cooperation
Lehua The flower of the ‘ohi‘a tree
Lei A necklace of flowers, leaves, shells, feathers, given as a symbol of affection;
Leilani Heavenly flower
Lo‘i Taro patch
Lolo Feeble minded, numb
Lū‘au Literally means taro leaves, but used for a Hawaiian feast
Luna Foreman, boss, supervisor
Mahalo Thank You
Mahalo nui loa Thank you very much
Maha‘oi Insolent, rude, brazen
Mahina Moon
Maika‘i Excellent, goodness
Maika‘i no au I am fine
Maka Eye
Makai Toward the ocean
Makana Gift, present
Makua Parent, any relative of the parent's generation
Mālama To take care of, preserve, protect, maintain;


Beautiful Pink Plumeria
Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
Malihini New comer, visitor
Mana‘o Thought
Manapua Chinese dim sum
Manini Stingy
Manō Shark
Manu Bird
Manuahi Free, gratis
Maoli Native, indigenous, genuine.
Mau Loa Forever
Mauka Inland, upland, toward the mountains.
Mele Chant or melodic song for hula dancing
Mele Kalikimaka Merry Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Menehune Legendary race of small people believed to have worked during the night building roads, fish ponds and temples.
Moana Ocean
Moku Island
Mo‘o Lizard
Mo‘opuna Grandchild
Nalu Wave, surf
Nani Pretty
Nīele Nosy, frivolously inquisitive
Niu Coconut
Nui Big, large, great, or important
‘O ia mau nō Same as usual
‘Ohana Family, relative, kin group; related.
Commonly seen Green Gecko.
Normal Slower Hawaiian Word English Translation
‘Ōkole Ass or butt (slang)
‘Ōlelo Language, speech, word, quotation, statement, utterance, term; to speak, say, state, talk, mention, quote, converse, tell; oral, verbatim, verbal.
‘Oli Chant
‘Ono Delicious or tasty, and also a large mackerel type of fish
‘Ōpala Garbage, trash
‘Ōpū Stomach, abdomen
Pāhoehoe Smooth, ropey lava
Palahē Flattened, crushed
Pali Cliff, a steep hill or slope
Paniolo Hawaiian cowboy
Pau Finished, ended, all done
Pehea ‘oe? How are you?
Pilau Stinky, smelly
Pilikia Troubles
Pōhaku Stone, rock
Poi A paste made from pounded taro root
Pakalolo Marijuana
Pōmaika`i Good fortune, blessing
Pua‘a Pig
Pule Prayer, incantation, blessing, grace; to pray, worship, ask a blessing.
Pūpū Snacks or appetizers
Pupule Crazy
Pu‘uwai Heart
Tūtū Grandfather, Grandmother
U‘i Handsome, pretty, beautiful, youthful
‘Uku Louse, flea. Small, tiny
Wa‘a Canoe
Wahine Woman, lady
Wai Water, usually fresh water
Waipahē Good-natured
Wikiwiki Fast or speedy

Hawaii Place Names

There are eight major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago:




Oahu or “The Gathering Place”. The most populous island and the island most visited by tourists. Oʻahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands but is home to about two-thirds of the population of Hawaii. Home to Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Kāneʻohe Bay, and the North Shore.

Hawaiʻi Island:

Hawaii Island Road Map

Hawaii Island or”The Big Island” is the largest and most southern island. The third most visited island, it is larger than all of the other islands combined and is the largest island in the United States. Referred to as “The Big Island” to distinguish it from the state. Home to the most accessible, continuously erupting, volcano in the world–Kilauea.



Maui is nicknamed “The Valley Isle”. One of the world’s most beautiful places! Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles and is the 17th largest island in the United States. It is the second most frequent tourist destination in Hawaii after Oahu.




Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle”. This is what paradise looks like! The oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands and the fourth largest of the main islands. Mt. Wai’ale’ale may be the wettest spot on earth with an average of 374 inches of rain per year.



“The Friendly Island”. Population 7,345. Home to Kalaupapa, located on an isolated peninsula on the northern side of Molokaʻi, the site of a leper settlement from 1866 to 1969 and the longtime residence of Father Damien.


“The Pineapple Island”. Now 98% owned by Larry Ellison. Once home to the world’s largest pineapple plantation (Dole) it is now home to two resort hotels on managed by Four Seasons Hotels: Manele Bay and the Lodge at Kōʻele.


“The Forbidden Island”. Completely owned by the Robinson family. The island is generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials and invited guests. In an effort to preserve Hawaiian culture, the residents speak only the Hawaiian language and are discouraged from mingling with persons not from the island.


“The Target Island” Always sparsely populated, due to its lack of fresh water. During World War II, it was used as a training ground and bombing range by the Armed Forces of the United States. In recent years, it has been undergoing cleanup of the ordnance.


Hawaii Island

You can listen to pronunciations of the Hawaii place names below for each of the major islands. Hawai‘i Island is truly a “Big Island” and that is what it is commonly called although it is correctly referred to as Hawai‘i or the island of Hawai‘i. It is bigger than all of the other islands combined and takes an entire day to drive around it. At least 7 distinct climate zones are found here and it’s one of the few places in the world where you can play in the snow in the morning (at the top of Mauna Kea) and be surfing on a beautiful beach a couple of hours later. One of the world’s most active and accessible volcanos (Kilauea) is found here at the southern end of the island. King Kamehemeha, who unified the Hawaiian islands, was born here and lived most of the time. Waipio Valley has been called the most beautiful place in the world. We’ve tried to make the locations go in order as one drives around the islands.

Place Normal Speed Slower Please!
Kohala Coast
‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay
Hāpuna Beach
Kapa‘a Beach Park
‘Upolu Point
Mo‘okini Heiau
King Kamehameha Statue
Pololū Valley lookout
Hāmākua Coast
Waipi‘o Valley
‘Akaka Falls
Volcano Area:
Kā‘ū District (southernmost)
Ho‘okena Beach Park
South Kona:
Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau (Place of Refuge)
North Kona:
Honokōhau Harbor
Ka‘ūpūlehu (Four Seasons)
Kīholo Bay
Mauna Kea
Mauna Loa
Streets and Miscellaneous:
Ka‘iminani Street
Mamalahoa Highway
Palani Road
Lanihau Shopping Center
Makalapua Shopping Center
Kohanaiki (Pine Trees)
Kuakini Highway
Queen Ka‘ahumanu


Oahu or “The Gathering Place” is home to the largest city in Hawaii (Honolulu) and the majority of it’s population even though it is one of the smaller of the islands. It is home to Waikiki Beach, the famed North Shore, Pearl Harbor, and Diamond Head. Also, it’s where Barack Obama grew up and attended school at Punahou.

Place Name Normal Speed Slower Please!
Maunalua Bay
Hawai‘i Kai
‘Ewa Beach
Kapi‘olani Boulevard
Ala Moana Mall
Kahala Avenue
Ala Wai canal
Kalākaua Avenue


These islands are very close and were felt to once be a single island that has broken up over time. The following table includes places you’ll find on your visit to Maui, Kaho‘olawe, Lana‘i, and Moloka‘i. We tried to list the names in order as you travel around each island.

Location Hear it Slower
Wailua Bay
Pailoa Bay
Opau Bay
Kauakio Bay
Kukui Bay
Lelekea Bay
‘Alenuihāhā Bay
Waiuha Bay
Mamalu Bay
Huakini Bay
Pi‘ilani Highway
‘Alalakeiki Channel
Ahihi Bay
Mākena Bay
Mokulele Highway
Kealia Pond
Kūihelani Highway
Honoapi‘ilani Highway
Akahele Street
Napili Bay and Napili
Honolua Bay
Honokōhau Bay
Po‘elua Bay
Kahakuloa Bay
'Iao Valley
Kekaulike Highway



Lana‘i was once home to the largest pineapple plantation in the world owned by the Dole Corporation. About 98% of the island was recently sold to Larry Ellison, CEO and Founder of Oracle. Bill and Melinda Gates were married here at Manele Bay. If you get the chance, stay at either of the two Four Seasons Resorts here–one at Manele Bay and the other at 2000 foot elevation at Koele.

Location Hear it Slower


Moloka‘i is renowned as the home of Kalaupapa where the famous leper colony (Leprosy, which is also known as Hansen’s disease) was home to St. Father Damien.

Location Hear it Slower

Generally, special permission is required to visit the island of Kaho‘olawe. This is an uninhabited island that was used as a bombing site during World War II and there are still un-exploded ordinances here. Intensive efforts to clean up the island in recent years have been effective but the island is still dry and covered with desert conditions.


Location Hear it Slower



Always a very special place, Kauaʻi was the only one of the islands not conquered by Kamehameha I. The ruler of the island, Kaumualiʻi, chose instead to join the kingdom without bloodshed and ceded the island to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi upon his death in 1824.

Kauaʻi was known for its distinct dialect of the Hawaiian language that is still spoken on the neighboring island of Niʻihau. Whereas the standard language today is based on the dialect of Hawaiʻi island, which has the sound “k” at the beginning of words, the Kauaʻi dialect was known for pronouncing this as “t”. As a result, the Kauaʻi dialect retained the old Polynesian , “t” while the remainder of the islands evolved to the “k”. Therefore, the native name for Kauaʻi was Tauaʻi, and the major settlement of Kapaʻa would have been called Tapaʻa.

In recent years, more movies have been filmed on Kauaʻi than anywhere else—charmed by it’s natural beauty and amazing vistas.

Location Hear it Slower
Pakala Village


Hawaiian Words of Love

This table includes Hawaiian phrases of love and affection as might be spoken between lovers or persons close to one another.

Pronunciations by Native Hawaiian speaker Jessica Kaikaina.”


Listen Hawaiian Phrase English Translation
E kipa mai Come to me
E ku'u aloha My love
Eia au, eia 'oe Here I am, here you are
Hele mai 'oe i ko maua male 'ana Come to our wedding
Ho'i hou ke aloha Let us fall in love all over again
Hokeo To secretly love
Ia iho ke aloha To my love
Ka honi mai me ke aloha And with love is a kiss
Ke aloha Beloved
Kipona aloha Deep love
Ko aloha makamae e ipo Sweetheart you are so precious
Ko`u Aloha My love
Ku`u Lei My beloved
Ma'ane'i no ke aloha For love is here and now
Mahalo e ke akua no keia la Thanks be to God for this day
Male 'ana Wedding
Male ana e pili mai aloha kaua We two will cling to love in marriage
Mau loa Forever
Mea aloha Loved one
Me ke aloha With love
Me ke aloha pumehana With the warmth of my love
Nau ko`u aloha My love is yours
Na'u `oe You're mine
No Kau a Kau For eternity
No keia la, no keia po, a mau loa From this day, from this night, forever more
Nou No Ka `I`ini I desire you
'O ku'u aloha no 'oe You are indeed my love
Pa'ipunahele An expression of love for a favorite
Pilialoha To be in a bond of love
Aloha au ia 'oe I love you
'Aha'aina male Wedding feast
Aloha aku no, aloha mai no I give my love to you, you give your love to me
Aloha kāua May there be love between us (said to one person)
Aloha kākou May there be love between us (said to more than one person)
Aloha no au ia 'oe I truly love you
Aloha nui loa All my love
Aloha pumehana Warm love, affection
E hoomau maua kealoha May our love last forever


Odds and Ends Blog

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Whale Songs

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Aloha `Oe

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