Learn the Hawaiian Language

To help prepare you for your visit to Kauai, we have provided a short list of some of the most common words and expressions in the Hawaiian language.

Did You Know?

There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet: A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W



The Most Common Words and Expressions in the Hawaiian Language

ʻaina
Land, earth.
alelo
Tongue, language.
aloha
Love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity; greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, loved one; beloved, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, lovable; to love, be fond of; to show kindness, mercy, pity, charity, affection; to venerate; to remember with affection; to greet, hail. Greetings! Hello! Good-by! Farewell! Alas!
aloha ʻaina
Love of the land; to nurture and care for the land.
halau
Long house, as for canoes or hula instruction; meeting house.
hula
1. A dance characterized by rhythmic body movements, a hula dancer; to dance the hula. 2. Song or chant used for the hula; to sing or chant for a hula.
huli
To turn, reverse; to curl over, as a breaker; to change, as an opinion or manner of living.
kai
Sea, sea water; area near the sea, seaside, lowlands; tide, current in the sea.
kamaʻaina
Native-born, one born in a place, host; acquainted, familiar. (Commonly referred to a long-time resident of Hawaiʻi, as distinguished from a visitor.)
kanaka maoli
Full-blooded Hawaiian person. (Also refers to an indigenous person of Hawai’i whose ancestry predates the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778, such as a Native Hawaiian.)
kapa
Tapa, as made from the inner bark of various plants.
kiʻi pohaku
Stone carving, petroglyph.
kokua
Help, aid, assistance, relief, assistant, associate, deputy, helper; co-operation; to help, assist, support, accommodate.
kumu
1. Teacher, tutor. 2. Beginning, source, origin; starting point. 3. Bottom, base, foundation, basis, main stalk of a tree, trunk, handle, root; hereditary, fundamental. 4. Reason, cause, goal, justification, motive, grounds, purpose, object, why.
kupuna
1. Grandparent, ancestor, relative or close friend of the grandparent’s generation, grandaunt, granduncle. 2. Starting point, source; growing.
lei
Garland, wreath; necklace of flowers, leaves, shells, ivory, feathers, or paper, given as a symbol of affection; beads; any ornament worn around the head or about the neck; to wear a lei; crown.
lu’au
Hawaiian feast, named for the taro tops always served at one. This is not an ancient name, but goes back at least to 1856, when so used by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser newspaper; formerly a feast was pa’ina or ʻaha’aina.
mahalo
1. Thanks, gratitude; to thank. 2. Admiration, praise, esteem, regards, respects; to admire, praise, appreciate.
makai
On the seaside, towards the sea, in the direction of the sea.
makua
Parent, any relative of the parent’s generation, as uncle, aunt, cousin; progenitor; main stalk of a plant; adult; full-grown, mature, older, senior.
malama
To take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve, protect, maintain; care, preservation, support, fidelity, loyalty; caretaker, keeper.
malihini
Stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom; new, unfamiliar, unusual, rare, introduced, of foreign origin; for the first time.
mauka
Inland, upland, towards the mountain, in the direction of the uplands.
mele
Song, anthem, or chant of any kind; poem, poetry; to sing, chant.
nalu
Wave, surf; full of waves; to form waves; wavy, as wood grain.
ʻohana
Family, relative, kin group; related.
ʻolapa
Dancer, as contrasted with the chanter or ho’opa’a (memorizer); now, any dance accompanied by chanting and drumming on a gourd drum.
ʻolelo
Language, speech, word, quotation, statement, utterance, term; to speak, say, state, talk, mention, quote, converse, tell; oral, verbatim, verbal.
oli
Chant that was not danced to, especially with prolonged phrases chanted in one breath; to chant thus.
ʻono
Delicious, tasty, savory; to relish, crave; deliciousness, flavor, savor.
pilikia
Trouble of any kind, great or small; problem, nuisance, bother, distress, adversity, affliction, accident, difficulty, inconvenience, perturbation, tragedy, lack; in trouble, troubled, bothered, cramped, crowded. See ʻaʻole pilikia.
pule
Prayer, incantation, blessing, grace; to pray, worship, ask a blessing.
ʻukulele
A four-stringed instrument shaped similar to a very small guitar. (Literally defined as “leaping flea”; probably derived from the Hawaiian nickname of Edward Purvis, who was small and quick and who popularized this instrument brought to Hawaiʻi by the Portuguese in 1879.)
wai
Water, liquid or liquor or any kind other than sea water; to flow, like water, fluid.
wikiwiki
Fast, speedy; to hurry, hasten; quick, fast, swift.