30 More Hawaiian Words Every New Resident Should Know

When I wrote “35 Hawaiian Words Every New Resident Should Know” a couple months ago, I came up with so many words that I had to leave some out to keep the list to a readable length.

It’s been a while since I wrote that post, so I figured you’re probably due for another dose of Hawaiian vocabulary. Here are 30 more that you’re likely to encounter as a new resident in Hawaii.


FYI: If you don’t see certain words on here, chances are I’m saving them for two more word lists I have planned: “Pidgin, Slang, and Localisms” and “Foods Found In Hawaii.” I welcome all reader contributions to any of these lists! :)

aina (EYE-nah) – Land, especially homeland.

ali’i (ah-LEE-ee) – In Native Hawaiian history, someone of inherited nobility (the highest social class).

halau (hah-LOW) – School, group (as in halau hula).

hana (HAH-nah) – Work.

hana hou (HAH-nah HOH) – Encore, do it again.

hoku (HOH-koo) – Star.

holoholo (HOH-loh-HOH-loh) – To go out visiting; to go out for a walk or ride.

honi (HOH-nee) – Kiss.

honu (HOH-noo) – Turtle or tortoise.

hui (HOO-ee) – Club or organization, especially for business purposes.

imu (EE-moo) – Underground oven or roasting pit.

kahuna (kah-HOO-nah) – A priest or expert.

kanaka (kah-NAH-kah) – A Native Hawaiian person.

kumu (KOO-moo) – Teacher (as in kumu hula).

ku’uipo (KOO-oo-EE-poh) – Sweetheart.

lani (LAH-nee) – Heavenly.

mahu (MAH-hoo) – Homosexual or transgendered (not derogatory).

maika’i (my-KAH-ee) – Excellent, good.

maile (MY-lay) – A native Hawaiian vine with dark-green aromatic leaves that is used to make an open-ended lei that is draped around a person’s shoulders. This type of lei is usually reserved for very special occasions, like weddings, graduations, and proms.

make (MAH-kay) – Dead.

malama (mah-LAH-ma) – To take care of.

mana (MAH-nah) – In Polynesian culture, a supernatural or sacred force that can inhabit people, places, and things, thus giving them authority and power.

mauna (MOW-nah) – Mountain.

mele (MEH-lay) – Song or chant.

menehune (MEH-neh-HOO-nay) – According to Native Hawaiian legend, dwarfs that work at night building roads, temples, fishponds, canoes, and houses.

mu’umu’u (MOO-oo-MOO-oo) – A woman’s dress that drapes loosely over the body.

pali (PAH-lee) – Cliff.

paniolo (PAH-nee-OH-loh) – Hawaiian cowboy.

uku (OOH-koo) – Flea or head lice.

ukupau (OO-koo-POW) – Pay by the job, not by the hour.

4 comments

  1. Mahalo nui for your blog,We fell in love with Oahu since our first trip in spring 2008 .My youngest son and I will be back in 14 days.We have day trips planned and the BOB experience and also a trip to the water slide place. What I still need to find is the hike to the waterfalls where you can swim .If you can find anything on this I will be most apprieciative.Mahalo again

    1. Hi, Pamela: For waterfalls that are good for swimming in, I have two recommendations: Waimea Valley on the North Shore has an easy, paved hike to a waterfall with a large swimming area. The entire park is beautiful and well worth a visit, but be aware that they do charge admission. If you don’t mind a longer, muddy hike, Maunawili Falls on the Windward (eastern) side of Oahu is a very popular swimming hole, and it’s free. For both hikes, be sure to use mosquito repellent — both places are swarming with the buggers. Have fun!

  2. Love the blog – couldn’t find anything else specifically on Aloha Attire. One phrase you seem to have forgot: da kine.

    1. Hi, Andy: Glad you’re finding the blog helpful! I really need to do a word list on pidgin and “localisms” — I will definitely put “da kine” on that one! Thanks for the input.

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