Celebrating the Hawaiian Spirit through Music

Hawai'ian Glossary
Puke wehewehe 'olelo


Consonants are pronounced as they are in English, with the exception of W. After I and E, W is usually pronounced like V.


Vowels are each pronounced individually when one after the other.

For example, ali'i is pronounced AH LEE EE.

A is usually pronounced like A in ABOVE.
E is usually pronounced like AY in PLAY.
I is usually pronounced like EE in SEE.
O is usually pronounced like O in GO.
U is usually pronounced like OO in BOO.


The Basics:

Aloha -- A greeting, also used when parting. Both hello and goodbye. Love.

Hula -- A lovely Hawaiian dance form.

Kane -- Man or men. eg. Go through the door marked kane, not wahine.

Mahalo -- Thank you.

'Ohana -- Family.

The Islands: O'ahu, Maui, Kaua'i, Hawai'i, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe.

'Ukulele -- A musical Hawaiian string instrument, introduced by the Portugese.

Wahine -- Woman or women. eg. The Rainbow wahine are one of the top ranked volley ball teams in the nation year after year.

For the Really Adventurous:

'aina -- The land, earth. eg. Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. (Hawaii's state motto.)

'akahi -- One. (Especially when counting in a series.)

ali'i -- Ancient Hawaiian royalty.

'alua -- Two. Twice.

'au'au -- To bathe or take a shower. eg. Gotta go 'au'au after fishing all day.

'eha -- Four. Four times.

'ekahi -- One. Once.

'ekolu -- Three. Three times.

'elima -- Five. Five times.

'elua -- Two. Twice.

ewa -- An area west of Honolulu. (Used as a directional term.) eg. Head ewa on H-1 and take the Waikele offramp to the outlet stores.

hala -- The pandanus tree, whose leaves are plaited into mats, baskets and hats.

halau -- A long house for canoes or hula instruction. Often used to refer to hula troupes. eg. A halau from Kauai took second place in the 1996 hula festival on the Big Island.

hale -- House. eg. It's appropriate that Honolulu's City Hall is called Honolulu Hale.

hapu'u -- An endemic tree fern, common in many forests of Hawai'i, and now frequently cultivated.

haole -- Originally, a foreigner, but the term is now used mainly to depict blondes or caucasians.

hihiwai -- An endemic grainy snail found in both fresh and brackish water.

ho'oponopono -- To correct.

hui -- A club, association or group.

hukilau -- A net; to fish with a net.

huli -- To turn or flip over.

humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a -- This is Hawaii's state fish, whose nose is shaped like a pig's.

imu -- An underground oven. eg. The kalua pig at the luau was cooked in an imu.

kahuna -- A priest, minister or expert in any field. eg. A kahuna was asked to bless the site before construction began.

kahuna lapa'au -- A healer or doctor.

kai -- Sea, near the sea.

kalua -- To bake in an underground pit or oven. Often used to describe pig served at lu'aus.

kama'aina -- A native-born or longtime Island resident.

keiki -- Child or children.

kiawe -- Algaroba tree. Like mesquite, its wood is often used to barbecue.

kokua -- Assistance, help. eg. We need your kokua. Please don't litter.

koloa -- Hawaiian duck. Considered an endangered species.

konohiki -- Headman of an ahupua'a (land division).

kukui -- Candlenut tree bearing nuts containing oily kernels formerly used for lighting by ancient Hawaiians. eg. Polished kukui nuts are often used to make leis.

kuleana -- Small piece of property.

kumu hula -- Teacher of Hawaiian dance. eg. Our kumu hula is strict, but a gentle spirit.

la'au lapa'au -- Medicine. Curing medicine.

laua'e -- A fragrant fern whose pieces were often strung in pandanus leis.

laulau -- A combination of pork, beef, chicken and/or fish, wrapped in luau leaves and steamed.

lei -- A flower necklace. eg. Each of her friends gave her a lei at the graduation ceremony.

liliko'i -- Passion fruit used for desserts and beverages. eg. Order the liliko'i juice; it's exotic.

lokahi -- Unity. To blend opposites.

lomilomi -- Massage. eg. Ah, after a tough day at work, I could use some lomilomi.

lua -- Bathroom, toilet. eg. He went to the lua about an hour ago....wonder if he's coming back to work.

luna -- A foreman, boss or supervisor. eg. Get busy; here comes the luna.

makai -- Towards the ocean. (Used in giving directions.) eg. Turn right on Kalakaua Ave., go two blocks, then makai on Royal Hawaiian.

mahimahi -- A dolphinfish. A very popular dish with both visitors and locals alike.

malihini -- A newcomer or visitor.

mauka -- Towards the mountains. (Used in giving directions.) eg. The hotel is on the mauka side of the street.

'ono -- Delicious, tasty, savory. eg. The laulau was ono!

opae -- Shrimp. eg. They caught some opae to use as bait.

'opakapaka -- Blue snapper. eg. The special of the day is steamed 'opakapaka sprinkled with crushed almonds and served on a bed of rice pilaf or the pasta of your choice.

'opihi -- Limpet. Plucked from shoreline walls and eaten raw. eg. 'Opihi make great pupus (appetizers.)

'opu -- Stomach. eg. Santa got a big 'opu from eating so much laulau, fish and poi.

pau -- Finished. eg. All pau. What's next?

pau hana -- Finished with work. eg. Yeah!, pau hana time. Let's hit the surf.

pikake -- A shrub with small, white, very fragrant flowers. eg. Her pikake lei smells so good.

piko -- Umbilical cord, navel.

pipi kaula -- Beef salted and dried in the sun. Broiled before eaten.

pohaku -- Rock, stone.

poi -- A Hawaiian staple made from cooked taro.

poke -- Raw fish chunks mixed with seaweed. eg. Let's put a little bit of chili pepper in with the poke for more flavor.

po'okela -- Best, supreme, foremost.

pua'a -- A pig or hog.

tutu -- Grandmother.

ulua -- A species of jack crevalle. eg. We caught two huge ulua and a few smaller fish today.

'ulu maika -- Stone used in playing the maika game (bowling). eg. Visitors can play 'ulu maika at some luaus.

umeke -- Bowl, calabash, as of wood or gourd.

weke -- Several species of edible, goatfish that inhabit Hawaiian reefs, characterized by a red color or striped markings.