Hawaiian Dictionary 

of words used on this website


This dictionary is in no way intended to serve as a true translation of the Hawaiian Language.  Listed here are only the few words in Hawaiian used on this website.  Many words in the Hawaiian Language have more than one meaning, but in the interest of space, I have only listed here definitions that help the reader in understanding the content on this website.    

Many, though not all, of the following word definitions have been taken from Hawaiian Dictionary:  Revised and Enlarged Edition by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert.  A few of the word definitions as well as all of the translations of idioms are my own addition to this dictionary.  


ali‘i -    chief, chiefess, officer, ruler, monarch, headman, noble, aristocrat, king, queen, commander; royal, regal, aristocratic, kingly; to rule or act as a chief, govern, reign; to become a chief.  

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.  

    "aloha hou" -     hello again.  

    "aloha kākou a e mālama pono" -     goodbye all and take care.  

    "aloha pumehana" -    warmest aloha.  

haku -     to compose, invent, put in order, arrange; to braid, as a lei, or plait, as feathers.  

    haku lei -    a modern-day name for a lei created to wear around the head like a crown.  

hau‘oli -    happy, glad, gay, joyful; happiness, enjoyment, joy.  

    "Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou" -    Happy New Year

hōkū -    star

Hōkūle‘a -    a navigational star, probably Arcturus; a zenith star above Hawai‘i.  Lit., clear (or happy) star.  Also the name of a long-distance, double-hulled voyaging canoe designed as a functioning replica of the canoes the ancient Hawaiians used for deep sea travel.  

hou -    new, fresh, recent.  again, more, re- (re-write, re-do).  

hula -    indigenous Hawaiian form of dance.  

‘ili‘ili -    pebble, small stone, as used in dances or kōnane.  

imu -    underground oven.  also umu.  

kākou -    we (inclusive, three or more).  

kolohe -    mischievous, naughty, unethical or unprincipled in any way, illegal, fraudulent, destructive; rascal, mischief-maker, scamp, rogue, prankster, comic, roughhouse, crook, vandal, lecher; to act in this fashion, misbehave, cheat, transgress, tamper; to violate, as a taboo.  

kōnane -    ancient game resembling checkers, played with pebbles placed in even lines on a stone or wood board called papa kōnane.  

le‘a -    joy, pleasure, happiness, merriment; pleasing, gay, delightful, happy, merry; delighted, pleased.  

mahalo -    thanks, gratitude; to thank.  

    "Mahalo nui loa" -    thank [you] very much.  

makahiki -    year, age; annual, yearly.  ancient festival beginning about the middle of October and lasting about four months, with sports and religious festivities and taboo on war; this is now replaced by Aloha Week.  

mālama -    to take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve, protect, beware, save, maintain; to keep or observe, as a taboo; to conduct, as a service; to serve, honor, as God; care preservation, support, fidelity, loyalty; custodian, caretaker, keeper.  

    "mālama pono kākou" -  take care everyone.  

mauka -    inland.  it is actually two words:  ma - in, on, at; and uka - inland, upland, towards the mountain.  Because it is used commonly as a means of showing direction, abundant usage has combined it into one word.  

‘ōniu -    a hula step, in which the hips are moved in a figure-8 motion.  

‘opihi -    limpets.  (a sea mollusk with a conical shell that clings to rocks or timbers.)  It is commonly found attached to rocks along the sea shore (although it is becoming rare in modern times) and is known as a Hawaiian delicacy. 

papa -    flat surface, stratum, plain, reef, layer, level, foundation, story of a building, floor, class, rank, grade, order, table, sheet, plate, shelf (rare), face (of a watch); flat, level; to be a great many.  board, lumber; wooden. 

pono -    goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, behalf, equity, sake, true condition or nature, duty; moral, fitting, proper, righteous, right, upright, just, virtuous, fair, beneficial, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, eased, relieved.  completely, properly, rightly, well, exactly, carefully, satisfactorily. 

pumehana -    warm, warm-hearted; warmth, affection.  

PVS -    Polynesian Voyaging Society.  An organization started in 1973 to disprove the theories that the Polynesian people populated the Pacific islands by putting themselves at the whim of the wind because they were too ignorant to navigate themselves.  PVS's goal was to prove not only that the Polynesians were extremely intelligent, but that they successfully navigated throughout the vast Pacific Ocean with skill unmatched for thousands of years before Europeans even attempted to take to the seas.  Their first successful voyage took place in 1975 aboard Hōkūle‘a, a replica of an ancient Hawaiian canoe named for Hawai‘i's zenith star.  The success of PVS and Hōkūle‘a was a turning point in the resurgence of interest and respect for the Hawaiian language and culture.  Hōkūle‘a has since traveled to every corner of the Polynesian Triangle and a distance equivalent to 3 times around the world.  You can check out their website at www.pvs.hawaii.org

Big Island -    a common nickname for the largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago, properly known as Hawai‘i, which most likely came about to differentiate between the island and the name of our State. 

Kaho‘olawe -    currently the only uninhabited island of the seven major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago.  It was taken over by the US military and used as a bombing range for many years.  Recently the US military has begun clean-up operations with the goal of giving the island back to the Hawaiian people.  It is suspected that this island was, at one point in Hawai‘i's ancient history, used as a training ground for navigators.  Lit., the taking away (as by currents).  The island is only 45 sq. miles (116 sq. km).  In comparison, Rapa Nui is 180 sq. km.  

O‘ahu -    name of the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands and the seat of Honolulu.  This name goes back to ancient times, and the meaning of it is unknown today.  It is estimated that 80% of Hawai‘i's one million residents live on O‘ahu.   The island is 607 sq. miles (1574 sq. km).  

Honolulu -    name of the capital city in the Hawaiian Islands.  Lit., sheltered bay.  Ancient names for Honolulu include "Kou" (after one of O‘ahu's ancient Ali‘i) and "Māmala", although more people seem use the latter when referring to the bay itself.   

Kamuela -    a city on the Big Island of Hawai‘i that is colder than most due to it's high elevation.  Because the Big Island is younger in age than the rest of the island chain, the terrain there is more rocky than what you would see on other islands. 




     Rapa Nui Journal

     Picture Archive

     Language References


   Home          Rapa Nui Journal          Picture Archive          Polynesian Language References