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Flowers arranged to make the word aloha

Aloha (/ɑːˈlhɑː/; Hawaiian: [əˈloːˌha]) is the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy, that is commonly used as a simple greeting[1][2] but has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians.

The word is found in all Polynesian languages and always with the same basic meaning of "love, compassion, sympathy, kindness"[3] although the use in Hawai’i has a seriousness lacking in the Tahitian and Samoan meanings.[4] Mary Kawena Pukui wrote that the "first expression" of aloha was between a parent and child.[3] The word has become a part of the English vocabulary in an awkward misuse.[5][6][7] The term is now part of English vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary defined the word as a "greeting" like "welcome" and "farewell" using a number of examples dating back as far as 1798 and up to 1978 where it was defined as a substitute for welcome.[citation needed]

Lorrin Andrews wrote the first Hawaiian dictionary, called A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language.[8] In it he describes aloha as "A word expressing different feelings; love, affection, gratitude, kindness, pity, compassion, grief, the modern common salutation at meeting; parting".[citation needed] Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian also contains a similar definition. Anthropologist Francis Newton states that "Aloha is a complex and profound sentiment. Such emotions defy definition".[4] Anna Wierzbicka concludes that the term has "no equivalent in English".[4]

The state of Hawai’i introduced an "Aloha Spirit law" in 1986, which mandates that city and state employees greet the public by using the words Aloha and Mahalo.[9]

See also[edit]

  • As-salamu alaykum, a greeting in Arabic that means "Peace be upon you"
  • Mahalo (word), a Hawaiian word meaning thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects
  • Namaste, a customary Hindu greeting
  • Ohana, a Hawaiian term meaning "family"
  • Shalom, a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility
  • Talofa, a salutation or greeting in the Samoan language


  1. ^ Pukui, Mary Kawena (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0824807030. OCLC 229095.
  2. ^ Van Valkenburg, June A. (2012), Feeling My Way: Finding Purpose, BalboaPress, p. 69, ISBN 978-1-4525-5462-4
  3. ^ a b Kanahele, George Hu'eu Sanford (1992). Ku Kanaka Stand Tall: A Search for Hawaiian Values. University of Hawaii Press. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-8248-1500-4.
  4. ^ a b c Wierzbicka, Anna (1992). Semantics, Culture, and Cognition: Universal Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations. Oxford University Press. pp. 152–155. ISBN 978-0-19-536091-2.
  5. ^ Ludwig, Sämi (2017). American Multiculturalism in Context: Views from at Home and Abroad. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 287. ISBN 978-1-4438-7482-3.
  6. ^ Janie Guy Winter (30 December 2010). World Peace: A Possible Dream. Xlibris Corporation. p. 243. ISBN 978-1-4568-2416-7.[self-published source]
  7. ^ First Pan-Pacific Educational Conference, Honolulu, August 11-24, 1921: Held Under the Auspices of the Pan-Pacific Union and Called by the U. S. Department of Education. Invitations for Participation of Pacific Governments Sent Through the Department of State of the United States of America. Program and Proceedings. Pan-Pacific Union. 1921. p. 25.
  8. ^ Forbes, David W. (1998). Hawaiian National Bibliography, Vol 3: 1851–1880. University of Hawaii Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-8248-2503-4.
  9. ^ Kerr, Breena (April 23, 2018). "In Hawaii, being nice is the law". BBC. Retrieved July 14, 2019.