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"Mahalo" is a Hawaiian word meaning thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects. According to the Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary, it is derived from the Proto-Polynesian masalo.
Some sources support that the meanings "thanks" and "gratitude" were appended to the word following contact with Westerners. While the word mahalo is found in Lorrin Andrews' 1865 dictionary, the English-Hawaiian section does not provide any Hawaiian word intended to mean gratitude or thanks. Also, early visitors noted that the Hawaiians were generous and grateful people, but had no word to express gratitude or to say "thank you".
- Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert (1986). Hawaiian dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0703-0.
- Lorin Andrews; notes by William de Witt Alexander (1865). A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. Originally published by Henry M. Whitney, Honolulu, republished by Island Heritage Publishing 2003. ISBN 0-89610-374-9.
- John B. Whitman (1979). John Dominis Holt, ed. An Account of the Sandwich Islands: The Hawaiian Journal of John B. Whitman, 1813-1815. Peabody Museum of Salem Topgallant Publishing. ISBN 978-0-914916-50-5.
- Six Months in the Sandwich Islands, Isabella Bird, p. 78