Speak Hawaiian Like a Local

06/28/2018 | by Courtney Dennis | Local Area Local Tips Vacation Rentals


Hawaii is unique among the 50 states in that it is the only one with two official languages. If you’re planning a trip to one of its islands, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the basics of speaking and reading Hawaiian.

First, the Hawaiian alphabet includes only 12 letters, which include H, K, L, M, N, P, and W, plus all the vowels of the English alphabet. Pronunciation of vowels is important, since Hawaiian words tend to have quite a few of them! As a general rule, “A” is pronounced /ah/, “E” is pronounced /eh/, “I” is pronounced /ee/, “O” is pronounced /oh/, and “U” is pronounced /oo/.

Next, you may find it fun to have a basic knowledge of some Hawaiian vocabulary you’re most likely to encounter during your stay…

1)   Greetings

You’re sure to hear the following greetings at restaurants, in stores, and in conversations happening around you throughout your time in the islands:

  • Aloha: used not only to say hello and goodbye, but to express love
  • E komo mai: welcome
  • Mahalo: thank you
  • A hui ho: until next time

Interested in booking an aloha-filled escape to paradise? Reserve Makena Aloha Estate, Aloha Nalu, or Aloha Lani today.

2)   Person-Related Terms

Hawaiians frequently use the following vocabulary to identify the people in their lives:

  • Ohana: family
  • Kupuna: elder
  • Kane: man
  • Wahine: woman
  • Keiki: child
  • Haole: Caucasian
  • Hapa: person of mixed ancestry
  • Kama’aina: long-time resident
  • Hui: club or group

Planning a vacation for the whole ohana? Reserve Ohana Le’ale’a or Ohana Kai today.


3)   Words and Phrases for Celebrations

It probably comes as no surprise, but the Hawaiian language contains plenty of terms for festive situations:

  • Lei: necklace made of flowers, leaves, seashells, or even nuts, usually given on a special occasion
  • Luau: feast or celebration
  • Hula: traditional Hawaiian form of dance
  • Mele: song
  • Hana hou: meaning “do it again,” used to encourage an encore performance
  • Pau hana: meaning “finished work,” used as a synonym for happy hour
  • Okole maluna: literally meaning “bottoms up,” used as a synonym for “cheers!”

Dreaming of the scent of lei flowers as you unwind on your tropical getaway? Reserve Hale Makalei or Ku’u Lei Villa today.

4)   Place-Related Vocabulary

You may hear some of the following words if you get directions from a Hawaii resident or tune in to local television:

  • Hale: house
  • Lanai: patio or deck
  • Makai: toward the sea
  • Mauka: toward the mountains
  • Aina: land
  • Pali: cliff

Looking for the perfect hale for your visit? Reserve Hale Komodo, Hawaiiana Hale, or Hale Kauka today.

Find a way to use a few of the terms above during your trip, or at least respond appropriately when they’re used with you, and everyone will think you’re “akamai” – smart!


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