Moke (slang)

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For the Hawaiian islands known as the "Mokes", see Na Mokulua.

Moke is a term used by residents of the Hawaiian Islands to describe segments of the local Polynesian population. In practice, the word "moke" is similar to "redneck", as it is only used to describe a certain personality type, instead of an entire ethnic group.[1]

The word was also used at the United States Naval Academy until the 1960s or later to pejoratively describe a janitor, normally African American.[2]

"Moke" in Hawaiian culture[edit]

Many people in Hawaii compare the Moke to the southern "redneck" in terms of personality. Much like a "redneck", the word Moke can be used as both a pejorative term and a term of pride[citation needed]. Also much like a redneck, mokes may stereotypically carry an affinity for pickup trucks, pitbulls, and are construed as uneducated. Mokes also have similar stereotypes to the Mexican-American "cholo", in mannerisms and appearance.

The common stereotype of a Moke is a local male of Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander descent, who speaks a form of English known as "pidgin", wears tank-top t-shirts, or no shirt, boardshorts, and cheap rubber sandals (also known as the "rubba slippa"). The term also suggests a person who is needlessly aggressive in dealing with others—particularly when the "others" are Caucasians ("haoles") -- and who views violence as the first and best way to get anything he wants or in response to any perceived slight.

In literature[edit]

John William's A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands (1832) is one of the earliest records of Mokes in literature. Williams, a missionary with the London Missionary Society equates mokes with "Heathen Darkness," a claim that portends the later antagonism between whites and Hawaiians over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.[3]

Later portrayals include W. S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs,[4] and Paul Theroux's Hotel Honolulu.[5]

Also of note is the reference in Captain Joshua Slocum's Voyage of the Liberdade,[6] where the term refers to a native of the Bahamas.


  1. ^ "Eye of Hawaii - Pidgin, The Unofficial Language of Hawaii". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Blue & Gold and Black". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Williams, John. A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands; with Remarks upon the Natural History of the Islands, Origin, Languages, Traditions, and Usages of the Inhabitants. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1837. p.2
  4. ^ Merwin, W. S. The Folding Cliffs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Press, 2001.
  5. ^ Theroux, Paul. Hotel Honolulu. Boston: Mariner Books, 2001.
  6. ^ Slocum, Captain Joshua. Voyage of the Liberdade. New York: Dover Publications, 1998.