Basics of the Hawaiian Language

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 Hawaiian 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: “ay”
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

Kikaua Point Beach (North Beach)

Hawaiian People You Should Know:

Hawaiian WordEnglish Definition
Ali`iHawaiian royalty
Hoa kulaClassmate
HoalohaBeloved friend
HoapiliClose friend
HuiStaff, team, group
Kahu lioGroom
Kahuna pulePastor
Kaikua’anaOlder brother of a male
KaikainaYounger brother or sister of the same sex
Kaiko’ekeBrother in law
Kaikua’anaOlder sister of a female
KaikunaneOlder brother of a male
KaikuahineSister of a male
KahunaPriest, skilled person, expert in a field
Kane maleMarried man
KupunakaneGrandfather, grandpa, granpa, grampy, gramps, papa, pops
KupunawahineGrandmother, grandma, granma, granny, grammy, grams, nana
KeikiChild, children, kid, kids, offspring
MakamakaIntimate friend
MakuahineMother, mom, mama, mommy
MakuakaneFather, dad, pa, daddy
Mo`iRoyalty, King or Queen
TutuAffectionate name for grandmother or grandfather
Wahine makuaSister in law
Wahine maleMarried woman
Wahine male houBride

More Common Hawaiian Phrases:

Hawaiian PhraseEnglish definition
A hui hou kakouUntil we meet again–as said to a group
Aloha kakahiakaGood morning
Aloha`auinalaGood afternoon
Aloha ahiahiGood evening
Aloha`oeFarewell to you
A`ole pilikiaNo problem, You are welcome
E komo maiWelcome, come in
Hana Hou!One more time! Do it again.
Kipa hou maiCome visit again
MahaloThank you
Mahalo nui loaThank you very much
Malu NoReserved For (Ideal for placecard settings)
Me ka `oia`i`oWith sincerity
Mau LoaForever
Nau wale noJust for you
`O wai kou inoa?What is your name?
Pomaika`iGood Luck