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Hapa is a term used to describe a person of mixed ethnic heritage. The term originates in Hawaii from the Hawaiian Pidgin word for "part" or "mixed".[1] In Hawaii, the word refers to any person of mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of the specific mixture.[2][3] In California, the term has recently been used for any person of part Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Therefore, there are two concurrent usages.[4][5][6][7][8][nb 1]

Etymology and usage[edit]

The term hapa comes from a Hawaiian Pidgin word that denotes a part or fragment of something, itself a loan from the English word half. When applied to people, this denotes that such people are of mixed descent.

Used without qualification, hapa is often taken to mean "part White"[citation needed] and is shorthand for hapa haole.[citation needed] The term can be used in conjunction with other Hawaiian racial and ethnic descriptors to specify a particular racial or ethnic mixture.[citation needed] Examples of this is hapa haole (part European/White).[10][11]

Pukui states that the original meaning of the word haole was "foreigner".[citation needed] Therefore, all non-Hawaiians can be called haole.[citation needed] In practical terms, however, the term is used as a racial description for Caucasians (whites), with the specific exclusion of Portuguese. Portuguese were traditionally considered to be a separate race in Hawaii.[12]

Some see the use of the term as a misappropriation of Hawaiian culture.[1][13][14]

Hapa-haole also is the name of a type of Hawaiian music in which the tune, styling, and/or subject matter is Hawaiian, but the lyrics are partly, mostly, or entirely in English.[15] Many hapa-haole songs had their musical roots in the Western tradition, and the lyrics were in some combination of English and Hawaiian; these songs first gained popularity outside the Territory of Hawaii beginning in 1912–1915,[16] and include titles such as "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua" and "Sweet Leilani".[17]

Hapa haole is also used for Hawaiian-language hula songs that are partly in English, thus disqualifying them as "authentic" Hawaiian hula in some venues such as the Merrie Monarch Festival.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Asian or Pacific Islander (API)" was a US Census classification prior to the 2000 US Census subsequently separated into two categories: "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".[9]


  1. ^ a b Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723
  2. ^ Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723: "Thus, for locals in Hawai’i, both hapa or hapa haole are used to depict people of mixed-race heritage."
  3. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 137: "Currently, Hawaiian locals use Hapa to refer to any individual who is racially mixed."
  4. ^ Huynh-Hohnbaum (2009), p. 437: "The term "hapa" is commonly used to refer to multiracial Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) and originates from a Native Hawaiian word."
  5. ^ Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723: "Today, Hapa is used to describe any person of mixed Asian Pacific American descent."
  6. ^ Ozaki and Johnston (2009), pp. 53–54: "Currently, hapa is often used to refer to anyone of a racially mixed Asian heritage, and even more recently to anyone who is of mixed-race heritage (Taniguchi and Heidenreich, 2005)."
  7. ^ Folen, Alana; Ng, Tina (Spring 2007). "The Hapa Project: How multiracial identity crosses oceans". University of Hawaii at Manoa. Retrieved 4 September 2013.  "Jonathan Okamura, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, explained that although hapa is a word that describes all people of mixed ancestry, hapa is primarily used to describe people who are half white and half Asian American."
  8. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 135: "In California, individuals recognized the term as meaning mixed Asian/Pacific Islander or, more popularly, part Asian."
  9. ^ Office of Management and Budget (30 October 1997), Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, US Government, retrieved 4 September 2013 
  10. ^ Easley (1995), p. 76: "'Hapa haole' is a commonly used phrase in Hawaii, employed by all Asian subgroups, but Hawaiian in origin. The phrase literally translates into "of part-white ancestry or origin.""
  11. ^ "Hapa Haole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Gerrit Parmele Judd IV (1961). Hawaii: an informal history. Collier Books. p. 136. 
  13. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 138: "Prominent figures in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, such as the Trask sisters, have spoken out against the co-optation of the Hawaiian language by Hapa organizations and other “inappropriate” uses of the term."
  14. ^ Dariotis (2007)
  15. ^ Kanahele, George S.; Berger, John, eds. (2012) [1979]. Hawaiian Music & Musicians (2nd ed.). Honolulu, HI, USA: Mutual Publishing, LLC. ISBN 9781566479677. OCLC 808415079.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ "Barack Obama, the Aloha Zen President". google.com. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World". google.com. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 



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