List of English words of Hawaiian origin

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The Hawaiian language has offered a number of words to the English language. Some Hawaiian words are known to non-Hawaiian speakers, and a few have also been assimilated into the English language (e.g. "aloha", meaning "hello", "love", or "goodbye", or "mahalo", meaning "thank you"). English also borrows some Hawaiian words (e.g. "ukulele", "mahimahi" and "muʻumuʻu"). Hawaiian vocabulary often overlaps with other Polynesian languages such as Tahitian, so it is not always clear which of those languages a term is borrowed from.

The Hawaiian orthography is notably different from the English orthography because there is a special letter in the Hawaiian alphabet, the ʻokina. The ʻokina represents a glottal stop, which indicates a short pause to separate syllables. The kahakō represents longer vowel sounds. Both the ʻokina and kahakō are often omitted in English orthography.

Because the Hawaiian orthography is different from English orthography, the pronunciation of the words differ. For example, the "muʻumuʻu", traditionally a Hawaiian dress, is pronounced /ˈmm/ MOO-moo by many mainland residents. However, many Hawaii residents have learned and realize that the ʻokina in Hawaiian signifies a glottal stop. Thus, in the Hawaiian language, "muʻumuʻu" is pronounced [ˈmuʔuˈmuʔu]. The pronunciations listed here are how it would sound in Hawaiian orthography.

Vowel Pronunciation
a [], [ɐ] or [ə]
e [], [ɛ], or [e]
i [] or [i]
o [] or [o]
u [] or [u]
Hawaiian word Meaning Pronunciation (IPA) Definition link
ʻAʻa A kind of rough-surface volcanic rock (in Hawaiian: 'a'ā). Note that there are two glottal stops before and after the first "a". Thus, it is not spoken as "ahh", but as "ah-ah". [ʔəˈʔaː] Link
Akamai Intelligent, clever, smart. [ʔɐkəˈmɛi] Link
Aloha Hello, goodbye, and love; outside of Hawaiʻi, only the first two meanings are used. [ʔəˈlohə] Link
ʻAwa A Polynesian shrub, Piper methysticum, of the pepper family, the aromatic roots of which are used to make an intoxicating beverage [ˈʔɐwə] Link
Haole Foreigner or outsider. Usually directed towards Caucasians or people from the mainland. May be said offensively, but is commonly said familiarly (not to be confused with haʻole, meaning "without breath"; the two have completely different meanings).


      • The two do not have completely different meanings. Ha'ole became Haole over time. There is an oral tradition in Hawaii that the word was originally used to describe Captain Cook's crewmen; as they had button shirts that would go all the way up to the neck. On a deeper level, the word Ha or breath also refers to the spiritual life force within you. Looking at the term Ha'ole (without breath) and applying it with the deeper understanding of Ha, an esoteric and unspoken cultural definition of a Haole is someone who lacks the flow of spirit in their behavior and attitude.
[ˈhɑole] Link
Honu Green sea turtle. [ˈhonu] Link
Hula Ancient Hawaiian form of dance. In the older days, men used to do hula as a sign of masculinity and as a war dance. Also see haka. Many people get confused between the Hawaiian hula (more graceful and slower) and the Tahitian hula (quicker and more hip movements) [ˈhulə] Link
Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa The reef triggerfish. The humuhumunukunukuapua'a is notorious for its long name, which many struggle to pronounce correctly (Humu (HOO-moo) + humu (HOO-moo) + nuku (NOO-koo) + nuku (NOO-koo) + wa (WAH) + pua'a (poo-WUH'-uh)) [ˌhumuˌhumuˌnukuˌnukuˌwaːpuˈwɐʔə] Link
Kahuna Hawaiian priest, wizard, or shaman; used in the slang phrase "big kahuna" [kəˈhunə] Link
Kamaʻaina A local; someone who has lived in Hawaii for a long time [kɐməˈʔɛinə] Link
Keiki A child. [ˈkeiti] Link
Kukui The candlenut tree, state tree of Hawaii, so named because the nuts were used as candles. Kukui nut leis were worn by celebrities such as Jessica Simpson and Tyra Banks in 2005-07 and became popular must-have accessories. [kuˈkuwi] Link
Lānai A veranda or patio, from the word lānai (not to be confused with the island, Lānaʻi) [laːˈnɛi] Link
Lei A garland of flowers and/or leaves to be worn around the neck. [ˈlei] Link
Luau A Hawaiian feast (Hawaiian: lūʻau). [luːˈʔɔu] Link
Mahalo Thank you. [məˈhɐlo] Link
Mahi-mahi Dolphin fish; the word means "very strong." [ˈmɐhiˈmɐhi] Link
Mana Magical or spiritual power. [ˈmɐnə]
Mano Shark (Hawaiian: manō) (not to be confused with the Spanish "mano", meaning "hand"). [ˈmɐno]
Muʻumuʻu (Muumuu) A loose gown or dress incorrectly pronounced moo-moo in English, but properly pronounced "muʻumuʻu" in Hawaiian. [ˈmuʔuˈmuʔu] Link
ʻOhana Family, neighborhood. May also mean a guest house where family members stay. [ʔoˈhɐnə] Link
Ono Good to eat. May also refer to the Scombrid Fish, also known as the Wahoo. [ˈono] Link
Pahoehoe A kind of smooth-surface volcanic rock. [paːˈhoweˈhowe] Link
Pele's hair A type of volcanic glass fibers named after Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess of volcanoes (see also limu o Pele). [ˈpɛlɛ]
Pele's tears Solidified pieces of lava named after Pele.
Poi A type of Hawaiian food made from mashing corms of the taro plant. [ˈpoi] Link
Puka A hole or perforation. Puka shells are round shells with center holes, strung together to make popular necklaces. [ˈpukə] Link
Shaka A hand gesture common in Hawaii by raising the thumb and pinky fingers to make a sign similar to the American Sign Language symbol for "Y".
Taboo From Hawaiian "tapu", now Romanized "kapu". Also Māori, Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian "tapu" or Fijian "tabu". [ˈkɐpu] Link
Ukulele A small guitar-like musical instrument that resembles the Portuguese cavaquinho (lit. "jumping flea") [ʔukuˈlɛlɛ] Link
Wahine A (Polynesian) woman, a female surfer. [waːˈɦiːne] Link
Wiki Fast; used in the "Wiki Wiki Shuttle" and "Wikipedia" [ˈviti], [ˈwiki] Link

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