Meaning of the Hawaiian word ‘Haole’

The word “Haole” literally means “a person without a country or a known beginning”.

So what does haole mean today?

It is frequently used today to identify a person of Caucasian/white ancestry but this is an incorrect usage. The Hawaiians are a very family-oriented people – check out the word ‘ohana for more on this. Their culture passes down stories across many generations. However, when the first Caucasian, Captain James Cook, arrived on the islands, he only knew 4 generations of his family (e.g. his Great-Great-Grandparents), which offended the Hawaiian Chief (ali’i), 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.