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Flowers arranged to make the word aloha

Aloha (/əˈlhɑː/ ə-LOH-hah, Hawaiian: [əˈlohə]) 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, for whom the term is used to define a force that holds together existence.[3]

The word is found in all Polynesian languages and always with the same basic meaning of "love, compassion, sympathy, kindness",[4] although the use in Hawaii has a seriousness lacking in the Tahitian and Samoan meanings.[5] Mary Kawena Pukui wrote that the "first expression" of aloha was between a parent and child.[4]

Lorrin Andrews wrote the first Hawaiian dictionary, called A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language.[6] 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".[7] 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".[5] Anna Wierzbicka concludes that the term has "no equivalent in English".[5]

The state of Hawaii introduced the Aloha Spirit law in 1986, which mandates that state officials and judges treat the public with Aloha.[8][9]


Aloha was borrowed from the Hawaiian aloha to English language. The Hawaiian word has evolved from the Proto-Polynesian greeting *qarofa,[10] which also meant "love, pity, or compassion". It is further thought to be evolved from Proto-Oceanic root *qarop(-i) meaning "feel pity, empathy, be sorry for", which in turn descends from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *harep.[11]

Aloha has numerous cognates in other Polynesian languages, such as talofa in Samoan, ta'alofa in Tuvaluan, and aro'a in Cook Islands Māori. Māori given name Aroha is also descended from the Proto-Polynesian root.

See also[edit]

  • As-salamu alaykum, a greeting in Arabic that means "Peace be upon you"
  • Mahalo, a Hawaiian word meaning thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects
  • Kia ora, a Maōri greeting
  • Mabuhay, a Filipino greeting
  • 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 Samoan greeting


  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. ^ Carrol, Bret (2000). The Routledge Historical Atlas of Religion in America. Psychology Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780415921312.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Forbes, David W. (1998). Hawaiian National Bibliography, Vol 3: 1851–1880. University of Hawaii Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-8248-2503-4.
  7. ^ Andrews, Lorrin; Parker, Henry (1922). A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. Honolulu: Board of Commissioners of Public Archives of the Territory of Hawaii. p. 52.
  8. ^ Kerr, Breena (April 23, 2018). "In Hawaii, being nice is the law". BBC. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Hawaiʻi Law of The Aloha Spirit
  10. ^ Ross Clark and Simon J. Greenhill, editors (2011), “QAROFA (B)”, in POLLEX-Online: The Polynesian Lexicon Project Online
  11. ^ Ross Clark and Simon J. Greenhill, editors (2011), “QAROFA (A)”, in POLLEX-Online: The Polynesian Lexicon Project Online