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The Hawaiian Language

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Until the 1820's, the Hawaiian language was only spoken.  History was passed down from generation to generation through the memorization of chants and by dancing the hula.  When missionaries arrived from New England, they began to record and write, phonetically, the Hawaiian words.  Today, in order to keep the culture alive, the Hawaiian language is still being taught in schools and is enjoying a resurgence in usage in contemporary Hawaiian song lyrics.  Now, let's learn some basic Hawaiian to use on your trip to the islands... 

The entire Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters

5 vowels
A (ah)
E (eh)
I  (ee)
O (oh)
U (oo)

7 consonants
H (heh)
K (keh)
L (lah)
M (moo)
N (new)
P (pea)
W (weh)
 ' (oh-kee-nah)

In formal or traditional settings, the ' W ' is sometimes pronounced like a ' V ', but this only happens when the ' W ' is in the middle of a word, as in Huh-(v)eye-ee instead of the more common Huh-why-ee.   Sometimes you will see a word spelled with an apostrophe between two vowels, as in Ali'i. This is called an "okina" (oh-kee-nah), or a glottal stop; a special consonant represented by a symbol that can change the meaning and pronunciation of a word, and creates an abrupt break or momentary pause by the speaker when the word is spoken. 

Vowels may follow each other, as in Hawai'i, where the double vowel is then pronounced as 'eee'.  Consonants are always followed by a vowel, creating syllables with only two letters.  Words never end in a consonant, so all Hawaiian words end with a vowel, and because there is no "S" in the Hawaiian language, nouns are not pluralized.  As in, "Wow, there go two Humuhumunukunukuapa'a!" (The Hawaii State fish).  Pronounced:  Who-moo-who-moo-nuke-koo-nuke-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah.  Note, here too there is an okina at the end of the word, which means the person would say, ah-ah

Common Hawaiian Words & Phrases
Hawaiian English Translation
ae yes
ali'i a Hawaiian chief, noble or royalty - Pronounced ah-lee-ee
A hui hou goodbye
akamai smart
aloha means both hello & goodbye, welcome or farewell, romantic love, affection, or best wishes
Aloha hiahi good evening
Aloha au ia oe I love you
Aloha kakahiaka good morning
Aloha nui loa much love, fondest regards
aole no
'ekahi one
hale house or building - Pronunced hah-lay
hana work - "Pau Hana" means I'm done for today - Usually said on Aloha Fridays
haole Caucasian - originally meant foreigner, now a rather bitter term for a mainlander - 'How-lee'
Hauoli la hanau Happy Birthday - Pronounced How-oh-lee La Huh-now
Hauoli makahiki hou Happy New Year - Pronounced How-oh-lee Mah-kah-hee-kee How 
Heiau temple, ancient worship ground  - Pronounced 'Hay-ow'
hele go or walk around
hiamoe to sleep
ho'olohe to listen
hui a group, meeting, or society
hula native Hawaiian dance - (A hula hale is a hula school house)
imu an underground oven used to steam cook foods on bed of heated rocks covered by earth 
ipo sweetheart, lover, girl- or boyfriend
ipu gourd - also an instrument used in hula
ka'a car
kahuna teacher or priest
kai ocean
kama'aina native born, long-time island resident, local (literal translation - "Of the land")
kane man  (Seen on many restroom doors in Hawaii) -
kapu forbidden - no tresspassing - Pronounced:  Kah-poo
kaukau food
keiki child - also used to discribe new baby orchid plants
komo mai please come in, enter, welcome  (E Komo Mai) - "My hale is your hale"
kokua help - As seen in Jame's Michener's book "Hawaii" - 'Paki Kokua'  (Chineese helper)
kul hot
ku Ancient Hawaiian god of war, usuallly carved as a tiki
kupuna grandparent
lanai porch or patio  (Also a Hawaiian island when capitalized)
lani sky
lei traditional garland of flowers or vines  (An open lei is 'formal', a closed round lei is festive)
lomi lomi traditional Hawaiian massage (or a luau dish made with salmon)
lua toilet, restroom, water closet 
luau a Hawaiian feast featuring poi, cooked pork in an imu and drinks with little umbrellas in them 
Ma'alaea Beautiful seaside village on Maui, where your condo is located - Pronounced:  Mah-ah-lie-yah
mahalo thank you
Mahalo nui loa  thank you very much - pronounced: 'Mah-ha-low, New-ee, Low-ah'
Mai'ai come and eat
maika'i fine
makai toward the sea
malihini newcomer, visitor
mauka toward the mountains, inland  - as in "Mauka Showers" heard on the weather reports
mauna mountain
mele a Hawaiian chant or song
Mele kalikimaka Merry Christmas - Pronounced:  May-lay Kah-lee-kee-mah-kah
menehune a mystical Hawaiian elf
moana ocean
mu'u mu'u dress   (Please note that the pronunciation is: moo-oo-moo-oo, not 'moo-moo')
nani beautiful
nuha sad & blue
ohana family
Okole maluna cheers, bottoms up
'Olu'olu please
ono delicious, delightful, the best also a type of fish, which can lead to, "Wow, that was ono ono!"
opu stomach
'o'opu fish - pronounced - 'oh-ah-pu' - as in: 'We used to catch 'o'opu in the mountain stream'
pali cliff - pronounced 'pah-lee' - as in take the pali highway
paniolo a Hawaiian cowboy - pronounced 'pan-nee-oh-low'
pau finished - (See Hana above)
Pehea'oe? How are you?
piko belly button
pono excellent
pua flower  - pronounced 'poo-ah' -  as in pua carnation
puka a hole of any size - as in a puka shell necklace
punee bed
pupu an appetizer, snack, hors d'oeuvres  - as in pupu platter
pupule crazy
tapa traditional paper cloth made from beaten bark
tutu grandmother
ua rain
wahine woman (Also used on the ladies room doors in restaurants and hotels)
wai freshwater
wela hot
wiki quickly, fast

Hawaiian Phrases

Aloha Au Ia 'Oe ~ I Love You
Aloha Aku No, Aloha Mai No ~ I give my love to you, you give your love to me
Aloha Kaua ~ may there be love between us (said to one person)
Aloha Kakou ~ may there be love between us (said to more than one person)
Aloha No Au Ia 'Oe ~ I Truly Love You
Aloha Nui Loa ~ All my love
Aloha Pumehana ~ warm love, affection
E Hoomau Maua Kealoha ~ May our love last forever
E Ku'u Aloha ~ My Love
Eia Au, Eia 'Oe ~ Here I am, here you are E ku'u ipo ë, eia au ke mihi nei. E kala mai ia'u, aloha nö au 'iä 'oe.  ~ Sweetheart, I am [here] apologizing. Forgive me, I do love you
Ho'i Hou Ke Aloha ~ Let us fall in love all over again
Hokeo - to secretly love
Ia Iho Ke Aloha ~ To my love
Ka Honi Mai Me Ke Aloha ~ And with love is a kiss
Ke Aloha ~ Beloved
Kipona Aloha ~ Deep loveKo Aloha Makamae E Ipo ~ Sweetheart you are so precious
Ko'u Aloha ~ My Love
Ku'u Lei ~ My beloved
Ma'ane'i No Ke Aloha ~ For love is here and now
Mau Loa ~ Forever
Mea Aloha ~ loved one
Me Ke Aloha ~ With love
Me Ke Aloha Pumehana ~ With the warmth of my love
Nau ko'u aloha ~ My love is yours
Na'u 'oe ~ You're mine
No Kau a Kau ~ For Eternity
No Keia La, No Keia Po, A Mau Loa ~ From this day, from this night, forever more
Nou No Ka 'I'ini ~ I desire you
'O Ku'u Aloha No 'Oe ~ You are indeed my love

Tiki - Ku
Tiki - Ku

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