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Hawaiian Words and Meanings

Aloha, or hello! Have you ever heard someone use a Hawaiian word or phrase and didn’t know what they were saying? Then you tried to Google it but didn’t know how to spell the word? Or are you planning a trip to Hawai’i and wanted to learn the lingo before arriving? Maybe you just want to expand your vocabulary to impress your Hawaiian friends? Don’t worry, many people are on the same boat at you and we’re here to help! At Buy Hawaiian Lei, we compiled a list of the most commonly used Hawaiian words and phrases used on the isles. As an added bonus, we also included some local slang that often times is referred to as “Hawaiian Pidgen” or “Pidgen” in short.


A hui hou means until the next time we meet.

Aina means the land. Hawaiian culture has always had a focus on taking care of the land.

Akamai means smart.

Aloha means hello, goodbye and love. This is typically used as a greeting.

Brah means brother.

Choke means a lot.

Da Kine means whatchamacallit.

E komo mai means welcome.

Grindz means food.

Hale means house or home.

Hana hou means one more time, encore.

Haole means non Native Hawaiian or Polynesian, especially a Caucasian.

Hau’oli La Hanau is Hawaii’s way of saying Happy Birthday.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou is Hawaii’s way of saying Happy New Year.

Honu means Hawaiian green sea turtle.

Howzit? means how are you?

Hui means hi or hey!

Kama’aina means local.

Kane means man, male.

Kapu means forbidden and/or keep out.

Keiki means child or children.

Kokua means help, assistance.

Lanai means balcony, patio.

Lei means garland or necklace of flowers, leaves, shells or feathers.

Mahalo means thank you.

Makai means towards the ocean or ocean side.

Mauka means towards the mountain.

Mele Kalikimaka translate to Hawaii’s way of saying Merry Christmas.

Menehune are mythical and sometimes mischievous, small people who can build big structures almost magically overnight.

Moku means island

Ohana means family.

Ono has two different meanings — it’s a fish and it also means delicious. This word is typically used to describe a dish when asked “how is it?”

Pali means hill.

Pau hana translates to end of the work day.

Poke means diced raw fish that’s commonly served as an appetizer.

Pono means right or righteous.

Shoots means alright or ok or of course.

Wahine means lady, female.

Wiki means fast.


Do these words look impossible to say? Not sure on how to say it correctly? Here is a quick crash course on how to pronounce these Hawaiian words and phrases. Most consonants are pronounced exactly like how it is in English. There is one exception and that is the w is traditionally pronounced as a v-sound. Hawaiian Vowels are a little tricky so here is a guide on how to pronounce them properly.


· a sounds like ah as in aloha

· e sounds like ay or eh as in say

· i sounds like ee as in bee

· o sounds like oh as in open

· u sounds like oo as in boo.

Now that you have the lingo down, you can confidently go on that trip to Hawai’i or talk to your Hawaiian friends like a local. Others will surely think you’re Akamai and that this isn’t your first rodeo. We hope the this list was able to give you a good start as you immerse yourself into the aloha culture. Is there any words or phrases that we should add to this list? If you want to share the aloha spirit, please check us out at www.buyhawaiianlei.com and send lei to loved ones!







Credit: Teen Vogue








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