Learn a Few Hawaiian Slang Words Before Visiting

Travel Tips — By keithdevey on October 20, 2011 at 3:05 am

Even though Hawaii was the 50th state to claim its statehood, there is a rich history around the culture and language that has been with the island chain for hundreds of years. Before you plan a trip out to Hawaii, it is important that you brush up on some of the basic slang words and Hawaiian words you will surely hear from the locals and tour guides.

To say hello, goodbye, or just share affection with another, we use Aloha (ah-low-ha).  One nickname for the state of Hawaii is the Aloha state, and while you are here it just seems natural to be as friendly as possible.  The Hawaiian word for woman is wahine (vah-hee-neh), while men are kane (kah-neh)—two helpful terms when you choose to use the public restroom. Surprisingly, there are countless public restrooms that only use those two terms and no images!   Hawaiian children are known as keiki (kay-key), and family is ohana (oh-hah-nah).  If you are of Caucasian background, in Hawaii you become a haole (how-leh).

Among Hawaiians, the chiefs or leaders were Ali’i (ah-lee-ee), and sacred temples you will see around the island are heiau (hey-ee-ow).  The spiritual leaders or teachers are kahuna (kah-hoo-na) who train the young people in doing what is pono (poh-no–good, correct or proper).  Forbidden activities are kapu (kah-poo)—you may see signs reading kapu in areas where trespassing is prohibited. It’s also kapu to take some of the lava rock or aina with you as you fly home.

Finding your way around Maui you may hear the expression mauka (mow-ka) which means toward the mountain, and also makai (mah-kigh) which is towards the sea.  You can ask directions from kama’aina (kah-ma-eye-na), long time residents. To hurry up or do things quickly is called wikiwiki (wee-kee-wee-kee), but plan ahead so you can enjoy our island without speeding around the roads of Maui. A famous bumper sticker reads “Slow down, this ain’t the mainland!”

Work in Hawaiian is hana (ha-nah), and finish or done is pau (pow).  Mahalo (mah-hah-low)—thank you—for reading this posting, because it’s now pau-hana.

[Image source: Flickr user Einahpets32]


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