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The Hawaiian language is believed to be derived from an ancient Polynesian precursor language.  Visitors to the islands are often embarassed 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.

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.

Vowel Pronunciation:

a “ah”
e “eh”
i “ee”
o “oh”
u “oo”

Stressed vowels:

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

Essential Hawaiian Words:

Anyone who lives or plans to visit Hawaii should know the following words used frequently:

Listen Hawaiian Word English Translation
Aloha Love, affection, hello, goodbye
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
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 (see * below).
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.

quoteThe word “Haole” literally means a person without a country or of known beginning. It is frequently used nowadays to identify a person of Caucasian ancestry but is an incorrect usage. When Captain Cook (the first Caucasian) came to the islands, he could only identify four generations of his which offended the Hawaiian Chief as it was traditional for Hawaiian people to recite their entire ancestry when meeting someone new. The term haole was used to identify those persons who did not know their ancestry. Although the term can be used in a derogatory fashion nowadays, the original derivation is innocent.