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

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

Essential Hawaiian Words

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

ListenHawaiian Word English Translation
AlohaLove, affection, hello, goodbye
MahaloThank You
MakaiTowards the sea; the ocean side.
MaukaTowards the mountain; the side facing the mountain.
E Komo MaiWelcome!
PauDone, finished
Pau HanaWork is done
Hana houEncore, do it again. The name of Hawaiian Airlines magazine.
AinaLand--especially Homeland
KamaainaOne of the land. Native-born but also used as a long-term resident of Hawai'i.
AkamaiSmart, clever
HaleHouse or home.
HaoleLiterally, means a person without a country or of known beginning. Often used to identify a person of Caucasian ancestry but is incorrect.
HonuA turtle--especially Hawaiian green sea turtle.
HulaHawaiian dance
KahunaExpert, usually refers to a priest, minister, or person held in esteem.
WahineWoman, female
KeikiChild , children
KuuipoSweetheart. Often used on jewelry--especially the Hawaiian bracelets worn by wahine.
MalamaTo take care of, to tend. Mālama aina: to care for the land.
KapuForbidden. Do not enter.
KokuaHelp, aid, provide assistance.
LanaiPorch, patio, or balcony. Usually at the back of the house.
LeiA necklace, usually, of flowers. Also, shells or kūkui nuts.
LuauHawaiian feast or party
MaikaiExcellent, goodness. Sack and Save grocery has a Maika'i discount card.
MalihiniNewcomer, visitor
OhanaFamily, kin, relative
OnoGood or tasty as in ‘ono grinds (food).
PanioloHawaiian cowboy
PoiA paste made from Taro root. A mainstay of the traditional Hawaiian diet.
PupuSnacks or appetizers
PupuleCrazy (especially referring to a mentally deranged person).
TutuGrandparent (affectionate)
UkuFleas or head lice (as in ‘undesired’ little critters in your hair').
WikiwikiSpeedy 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:

ListenHawaiian Word English Translation
Aloha kākouAloha to all (including myself) Warmest welcome. Usually said to a group of people. Hawaiian Airlines uses this on all flights.
Aloha kāuaAloha 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.

NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
A hui hou Until we meet again
A hui hou kākouUntil we meet again--said to a group
A‘āSharp jagged lava rock
‘A‘ole pilikiaYou're welcome/No problem
Ahupua‘aLand division
‘ĀinaLand, especially Hawaiian ancestral lands
AkamaiSmart, Clever, Intelligent
AlaRoad, way, path
AleloTongue, language.
Ali‘iChief, chiefess, or royalty
AlohaLove, affection; greeting, salutation; Hello! Good-bye!
Aloha ‘auinalāGood afternoon
Aloha ‘oeFarewell to you
Aloha ahiahiGood evening
Aloha ‘āinaLove of the land; to nurture and care for the land.
Aloha au ia ‘oeI love you
Aloha kakahiakaGood morning
Aloha nui loaVery much love
‘A‘ole pilikiaNo problem, no trouble.
‘AuanaModern; Especially relating to hula.
‘AumakuaAncestral spirit, family or personal gods
E Komo MaiWelcome! Enter
HālauLong house, as for canoes or hula instruction; meeting house
NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
HaleHouse, building
Hana houEncore, do it again.
HānaiAdopted, to raise, rear, feed
HaoleA foreigner; Pidgin slang - Caucasian
Hapa haolePerson of mixed racial ancestry
HāpaiTo carry, pregnant
Hau‘oli lā HānauHappy Birthday
Hau‘oli lā Ho‘omaha loaHappy Retirement
Hau‘oli lā Ho‘omana‘oHappy Anniversary
Hau‘oliHappy, glad, joy
Hau‘oli HanukahaHappy Hanukkah
Hau‘oli Hanukaha me ka Makahiki HouHappy Hanukkah and New Year
Hau‘oli Makahiki HouHappy New Year
HehenaRaving mad, possessed, lunatic
HeiauPre-Christian shrine or place of worship
HeleMove, go, travel
HiapoFirst Born
HinaTo fall, topple over from an upright position
Hō‘ikeShow, display
HoloholoOut on a lark, fishing, to wander
NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
HulaThe dance of Hawaii
Huli-huliRotisserie or 'end-over-end' as in chicken cooked this way.
Humuhumunukunukuapua'aThe State fish. A Triggerfish.
ImuAn underground oven you will see at a luau
KahikoAncient hula dance
KahuGuardian, leader, minister
KahunaExpert. A priest, minister, or an expert at any profession
KaiSea, sea water; seaside
Kala mai ia‘uExcuse me
Kama‘āinaCommonly referred to a long-time resident of Hawai'i.
KāneA man or boy
KanikapilaMusical jam session
KapaCloth made from the bark of the wauke tree
KapuSacred, taboo, forbidden, no trespassing
KeikiChild, offspring, or children
KōkuaHelp, aid, assistance, relief.
KulikuliBe quiet! Shut up!
KupunaGrandparent, ancestor
NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
LanaiA porch, patio, or balcony
LaniSky, the heavens
Laule‘aPeaceful, happy
LehuaThe flower of the ‘ohi‘a tree
LeiA necklace of flowers, leaves, shells, feathers, given as a symbol of affection;
LeilaniHeavenly flower
Lo‘iTaro patch
LoloFeeble minded, numb
Lū‘auLiterally means taro leaves, but used for a Hawaiian feast
LunaForeman, boss, supervisor
MahaloThank You
Mahalo nui loaThank you very much
Maha‘oiInsolent, rude, brazen
Maika‘iExcellent, goodness
Maika‘i no auI am fine
MakaiToward the ocean
MakanaGift, present
MakuaParent, any relative of the parent's generation
MālamaTo take care of, preserve, protect, maintain;
NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
MalihiniNew comer, visitor
ManapuaChinese dim sum
ManuahiFree, gratis
MaoliNative, indigenous, genuine.
Mau LoaForever
MaukaInland, upland, toward the mountains.
MeleChant or melodic song for hula dancing
Mele KalikimakaMerry Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau‘oli Makahiki HouMerry Christmas and a Happy New Year
MenehuneLegendary race of small people believed to have worked during the night building roads, fish ponds and temples.
NaluWave, surf
NīeleNosy, frivolously inquisitive
NuiBig, large, great, or important
‘O ia mau nōSame as usual
‘OhanaFamily, relative, kin group; related.
NormalSlowerHawaiian WordEnglish Translation
‘ŌkoleAss or butt (slang)
‘ŌleloLanguage, speech, word, quotation, statement, utterance, term; to speak, say, state, talk, mention, quote, converse, tell; oral, verbatim, verbal.
‘OnoDelicious or tasty, and also a large mackerel type of fish
‘ŌpalaGarbage, trash
‘ŌpūStomach, abdomen
PāhoehoeSmooth, ropey lava
PalahēFlattened, crushed
PaliCliff, a steep hill or slope
PanioloHawaiian cowboy
PauFinished, ended, all done
Pehea ‘oe?How are you?
PilauStinky, smelly
PōhakuStone, rock
PoiA paste made from pounded taro root
Pōmaika`iGood fortune, blessing
PulePrayer, incantation, blessing, grace; to pray, worship, ask a blessing.
PūpūSnacks or appetizers
TūtūGrandfather, Grandmother
U‘iHandsome, pretty, beautiful, youthful
‘UkuLouse, flea. Small, tiny
WahineWoman, lady
WaiWater, usually fresh water
WikiwikiFast or speedy

Uniquely Hawaiian

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Common Name: Hawaiian Monk Seal Scientific Name: Neomonachus schauinslandi Type: Mammals Diet: Carnivores Group Name: Colony, rookery Average life span in The Wild: 25 to 30 years Size: Length, 7.5 ft Weight: 500 to 610 lbs About the Hawaiian Monk Seal (from National Geographic) Most seals are at home in frigid waters, but the Hawaiian …

Kukui Nut Trees

The state tree of Hawaii is the beautiful Kukui nut. The leaves give an almost purplish hue when young. The fruit of the tree (kukui nut) is often used in the traditional lei–especially for men.

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.


ListenHawaiian Phrase English Translation
E kipa maiCome to me
E ku'u alohaMy love
Eia au, eia 'oeHere I am, here you are
Hele mai 'oe i ko maua male 'anaCome to our wedding
Ho'i hou ke alohaLet us fall in love all over again
HokeoTo secretly love
Ia iho ke alohaTo my love
Ka honi mai me ke alohaAnd with love is a kiss
Ke alohaBeloved
Kipona alohaDeep love
Ko aloha makamae e ipoSweetheart you are so precious
Ko`u AlohaMy love
Ku`u LeiMy beloved
Ma'ane'i no ke alohaFor love is here and now
Mahalo e ke akua no keia laThanks be to God for this day
Male 'anaWedding
Male ana e pili mai aloha kauaWe two will cling to love in marriage
Mau loaForever
Mea alohaLoved one
Me ke alohaWith love
Me ke aloha pumehanaWith the warmth of my love
Nau ko`u alohaMy love is yours
Na'u `oeYou're mine
No Kau a KauFor eternity
No keia la, no keia po, a mau loaFrom this day, from this night, forever more
Nou No Ka `I`iniI desire you
'O ku'u aloha no 'oeYou are indeed my love
Pa'ipunaheleAn expression of love for a favorite
PilialohaTo be in a bond of love
Aloha au ia 'oeI love you
'Aha'aina male Wedding feast
Aloha aku no, aloha mai noI give my love to you, you give your love to me
Aloha kauaMay there be love between us (said to one person)
Aloha kakouMay there be love between us (said to more than one person)
Aloha no au ia 'oeI truly love you
Aloha nui loaAll my love
Aloha pumehanaWarm love, affection
E hoomau maua kealohaMay our love last forever