By Karen S. Spangler, Managing Editor, Ho`okele
Here is a handy reference to some of the most frequently used Hawaiian words, especially those that you may come across during your time here in Hawaii:
Aloha Aloha means hello, aloha means good-bye, aloha means love. You’ll hear it a lot.
Mahalo Don’t be confused when you see this word on litter cans and trash bins throughout the islands. It isn’t the Hawaiian word for trash – it means “thank you” and in this usage, mahalo for placing your litter in the trash cans and helping to keep paradise beautiful.
Ono This is a special word used to describe food that is yummy or delicious. Saying that something is ono is paying a huge compliment.
Shaka Shaka, meaning “hang loose” or chill, or be laid back, is a greeting used in Hawaii which is sometimes associated with the surfer community. To give the shaka, extend the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled. Raise the hand in greeting while extending the back; it can be rotated back and forth for extra emphasis. People in Hawaii use the shaka to convey the “aloha spirit,” a gesture of friendship and understanding between the various ethnic cultures that reside within Hawaii.
Pau hana This is something that everyone looks forward to the end of the work day. Pau hana is especially good on aloha Friday.
Ohana Family and a sense of family are very important in Hawaii and ohana means extended family. Our RIMPAC participants are part of our Hawaii ohana.
Kane This is the Hawaiian word for man or male and you will see it frequently on the door of the men’s restroom.
Wahine This is the Hawaiian word for woman or female and you will see this Hawaiian word on the door of the ladies’ restroom.
Keiki Children in Hawaii are frequently called keiki, a Hawaiian word for children.
Mauka and makai To give you some sense of where you are or where you are trying to go, directions are frequently given using mauka (toward the mountain) or makai (toward the sea).
Luau You will see many luau here in Hawaii. A luau is a traditional Hawaiian feast or party which usually also includes entertainment. The cuisine at a luau will typically feature such Hawaiian foods as kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon and haupia (coconut). Hawaiian music and hula dancers, and perhaps an opportunity to learn a few hula moves, are part of the festivities.
Pupu This also refers to food, but more of a finger food, appetizer, or hors d’oeuvres. Many of Hawaii’s pupu are also ono.
Malama pono This means take good care with or take good care of yourself and we hope that you do.
A hui hou This is a common expression used in Hawaii and it means until we meet again. When you depart Hawaii after RIMPAC, you will probably be wished a fond a hui hou.
Crash course in Hawaiian pronunciations: As you travel throughout the state of Hawaii, you will notice many street names, places and venues using Hawaiian words. There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, five vowels (a, e, i, o and u) and eight consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w, `). The final Hawaiian consonant, the ` okina ( `), indicates a glottal stop which means your breath stops briefly as between the two parts of the English term “oh-oh.” For the most part, all vowels are pronounced. Got it?
Then try twisting your tongue around the pronunciation of Hawaii’s state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a. It is also called the Hawaiian trigger fish.
To our RIMPAC visitors, e komo mai, which means come in or welcome, to Hawaii.