19 Hawaiian Words To Know Before Your Trip

Have you ever been to another country where English isn't the only language, or first language? You may get there and feel at a total loss for words (quite literally)! Let's say you're coming to Hawai'i for the first time and don't know a single word. This blog is all about the most important words to know in the Hawaiian language before your vacation or business trip to Hawaii!


1) Aloha- the most famous Hawaiian word, a greeting, a farewell, and expression of love, compassion, and kindness. 

2) Mahalo - it means thank you, it's a significant part of Hawaiian culture to express gratitude.

3) Ohana - it means family, but it extends beyond blood relationships and includes friends and community members. 

4) Hānai- means family friends who are like family or adopted family (Ohana is used for this term as well but Hanai has no blood relations)

5) Kūpuna- Elderly and/or honored elderly, grandparent, ancestor. Many people use this to refer to our elderly population.

6) Keiki-A child. You will hear this world a lot in the local community when referred to children.

7) Mauka - it means "toward the mountains," and it's also used to give directions.

8) Makai - it means "toward the ocean," and it's used to give directions.

9) Kuleana - it means responsibility, and it's an essential concept in Hawaiian culture.

10) Malama ʻĀina - it means to take care of the land. You'll see this on signs all around the beaches and parks as well as from local's in public areas. 

11) A'ole- means "no" in Hawaiian, You will most likely hear a lot of parents scold their "Keiki" (children) with this word!

12) Mahimahi - This is a fish commonly served in Hawaiian cuisines.

 Hawaiian Pidgin


Now that we have addressed some of the most important Hawaiian words to know, it's important to recognize Hawaiian Pidgin as well! Hawaiian Pidgin is an English-based creole language spoken in Hawaiʻi. It's a language that is used by the main population of the state and will help you better understand locals and know what they are referring too. Here are some top key phrases and words in Hawaiian Pidgin that you should know before coming to Hawaii:


1) Da kine - This phrase is used to refer to something when you can't remember the name of the thing or when you don't want to say the name

2) Grindz - Food or a meal.

3) Brah or Brahddah - Brother, a term of endearment or casual greeting.

4) Shaka - A hand gesture with the thumb and little finger extended, used as a sign of approval or to say hang loose.

5) Kama'āina - A long-time resident of Hawaii or someone who is familiar with the local culture and customs. This term is also used a lot for local residents in the state who want a discount! So if you are a resident of Hawai'i then you can ask a company if they give Kama'aina (discounts) for local residents.

6) Pau hana - Work is done; finished with work for the day or week (Even though this is a true Hawaiian term, it is used regularly by the local community and a term you should be familiar with!)

7) Lolo - Crazy or foolish.


As with all language, being respectful when speaking, learning, or understand language is the most important thing. Making "fun" of words you may not understand or treating the Hawaiian language "silly" will result in some very, understandably, upset locals. Treating other culture with respect, especially when you are visiting that culture's land, is going to create the best possibly trip for you.

If you want to learn more about 'olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language) think about taking an online class from a local Hawai'i resident here on the islands.

Here is one such local online class https://niuolahiki.ahapunanaleo.org

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