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Aloha (pronounced [əˈlo.hə]) in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. Since the middle of the 19th century, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello. "Aloha" is also included in the state nickname of Hawaii, the "Aloha State".
A folk etymology claims that it derives from a compound of the Hawaiian words alo meaning "presence", "front", "face", or "share"; and ha, meaning "breath of life" or "essence of life". Although alo does indeed mean "presence", etc. by itself, the word for "breath" has a long A (hā), whereas the word aloha does not.
The use of the word as a greeting has been reconstructed to Proto-Polynesian. Before contact with the West, other words used for greeting included welina and anoai. Today, "aloha kakahiaka" is the phrase for "good morning". "Aloha ʻauinalā" means "good afternoon" and "aloha ahiahi" means "good evening". "Aloha kākou" is a common form of "welcome/goodbye to all".
Recent trends are popularizing the term elsewhere in the United States. Popular entertainer, Broadway star and Hollywood actress Bette Midler, born in Honolulu, uses the greeting frequently in national appearances. The word was also used frequently in the 1968 and 2010 versions of the hit television drama Hawaii Five-0. In the influential 1982 film comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High the student and surfer Jeff Spicolli (played by Sean Penn) uses the greeting with the eccentric teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who had earlier made use of the greeting himself. The Aloha Spirit is a major concept in Disney's Lilo & Stitch franchise, which is set on Kauaʻi. The drama series Lost, shot in Hawaiʻi, has a thank you note at the end of the credits saying "We thank the people of Hawaiʻi and their Aloha Spirit". Aloha is a term also used in the Nickelodeon program Rocket Power.
In Hawaiʻi someone can be said to have or show aloha in the way they treat others; whether family, friend, neighbor or stranger.
The half-hourly station identification announcement WWVH, a NIST shortwave radio time signal station in Kekaha, Hawaii, concludes with "Aloha", while its mainland counterpart (WWV of Fort Collins, Colorado) does not.
- Mary Māmaka Kaiao Kuleana kope. "Hawaiian Dictionaries". University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- Department of Linguistics Australian National University Anna Wierzbicka Reader (11 September 1992). Semantics, Culture, and Cognition : Universal Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations: Universal Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations. Oxford University Press. pp. 154–. ISBN 978-0-19-536091-2.
- Polynesian Lexicon Online
- Biggs, Bruce, 1979. Proto-Polynesian Word List II. Working Papers in Anthropology, Archaeology, linguistics, and Maori Studies No. 53. Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland.
- , additional text.
- Polynesian Lexicon Online
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- Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. (May 15, 2008). "The Aloha Spirit -- what it is, who possesses it, and why it is important". Hawaii Reporter.