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The harmonious language of Hawaii is a direct reflection of its essence. Hawaii is a place where nature guides life, where weather and seasons and cycles are honored for their potent influence. This reverence is reflected in the language. Less letters mean less distractions. More vowels are the voice of the wind, sea and sun. And the melodious tune of apostrophe inserts and double-vowels encourages uplifting attitudes aligned with island time.

The Hawaiian language may be difficult to grasp at first, but it doesn’t take long to capture your heart.

Hawaiian is a special and sacred language, filled with words that represent concepts and dual meanings. It is a layered tapestry of mystical meanings and practical directives, woven through centuries of native peoples, Polynesian pioneers and royal lineages.

To study and compassionately understand Hawaiian would take lifetimes. So, in the meantime, here is some insight to common words and phrases you may come across…


Aloha – Love, affection; greeting; Hello! Goodbye! Also a way of life… acknowledgement of what really matters.

A hui hou (kakao) – Until we meet again (said to a group)

E Komo Mai – Welcome, enter

Mahalo – Thank you

Mahalo nui loa – Thank you very much


Kapu – Sacred, taboo, forbidden, no trespassing— keep an eye out for signs marked “kapu,” as it is equivalent to “no trespassing.” These areas may be protected for environmental, energetic or otherwise unknown reasons.

Kuleana – Responsibility— can be used to describe a specific responsibility or a broader sense of life purpose.

Malama – To take care of, preserve, protect, maintain— used to describe the respectful tending to of land, people or thing.

Pono – Right, morally righteous, harmony, balance— An all-encompassing term to describe thinking, acting and living in right relations with everything.

The Hawaii state motto says “Ua Man ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono,” meaning “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” 

Landmarks And Directions

Aina – Land, island

Hale – House, building

Heiau – Sacred site of spiritual reverence or worship

Kai – Sea, saltwater, seaside

Lanai –  Porch, patio or balcony

Makai – Toward the ocean

Mauka – Inland, upland, toward the mountains

Other Common Words

Ali’i – Chief, chiefess, or royalty

Haole –  A foreigner, caucasian

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – Hawaiian State Fish

Kama’aina – Child of the land; A long-time resident of Hawaii

Kane – Man, male

Keiki – Child or children

Lani – Sky, the heavens

Mele Kalikimaka – Merry Christmas

Ohana – Family, relative, kin group, tribe

Ono – delicious or tasty, also a type of fish

Opala – Garbage, trash

Paniolo – Hawaiian cowboy

Pau – Finished, ended, all done

Pau Hana – End of the work day, happy hour

Pupu – snacks or appetizers

Wahine – Woman, lady

Wai – Fresh water

Pronunciation Tips

a sounds like ah
e sounds like ay or eh
i sounds like ee
o sounds like oh
u sounds like oo

So, give it a try! It is said that speaking Hawaiian opens the heart and inspires the soul. May the harmony of the Hawaiian language inspire Aloha within you, no matter where in the world you are.