From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hapa is a Hawaiian word for someone of multiracial ancestry. In Hawaii, the word refers to any person of mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of the specific mixture.[1][2] In California, the term is used for any person of white and East Asian or Southeast Asian admixture.[3][4][5][6][7] Both uses are concurrent, but the latter usage is controversial.[8][9][10][11][12][13][a]

Historical and Hawaiian usage[edit]

Hapa Haole (No. 206) by Grace Hudson, 1901

The word "hapa" entered the Hawaiian language in the early 1800s, with the arrival of Christian missionaries who instituted a Hawaiian alphabet and developed curriculum for schools. It is a transliteration of the English word "half," but quickly came to mean "part," which could be combined with numbers to form fractions. For example, hapalua is half, hapahā is one-fourth, and hapanui means majority.[1][2]

In Hawaii, the term can be used in conjunction with other Hawaiian racial and ethnic descriptors to specify a particular racial or ethnic mixture.[1][2] An example of this is hapa haole (part European/White).[15][16]

Pukui states that the original meaning of the word haole was "foreigner." Therefore, all non-Hawaiians can be called haole.[17] In practical terms, however, the term is used as a racial description for whites, with the specific exclusion of Portuguese. Portuguese are traditionally considered to be a separate race in Hawaii.[18]

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.[19] 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,[20] and include titles such as "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua" and "Sweet Leilani."[21]

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.


Some see the use of the term to refer to mixed Asian people without any connections to Hawaii as a misappropriation of Hawaiian culture,[22][23] but there are kamaʻāina and Kānaka Maoli who see it as hypocritical to protest anyone using what was originally taken from another culture to begin with.[24][25]

Still others take a stronger stand in discouraging its usage and misuse as they consider the term to be vulgar and racist.[26]

However, the term, unlike other words referring to mixed-race people, has never been a derogatory term when it is used in its original Hawaiian context, although there is some debate about appropriate usage outside this context.[24] As Wei Ming Dariotis states, "'Hapa' was chosen because it was the only word we could find that did not really cause us pain. It is not any of the Asian words for mixed Asian people that contain negative connotations either literally (e.g. 'children of the dust,'  'mixed animal') or by association (Eurasian)."[23]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2010, a film called One Big Hapa Family was released about Japanese Canadians.[13][27]

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".[14]



  1. ^ a b c Bernstein & Cruz 2009, p. 723: "Thus, for locals in Hawai’i, both hapa or hapa haole are used to depict people of mixed-race heritage."
  2. ^ a b c Taniguchi & Heidenreich 2006, p. 137: "Currently, Hawaiian locals use 'hapa' to refer to any individual who is racially mixed."
  3. ^ "Definition of hapa | Dictionary.com". www.dictionary.com. Retrieved 2022-08-20.
  4. ^ Ho, Jennifer Ann (2015). Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture. Asian American Studies Today. Rutgers University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780813570716. OCLC 973052426. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  5. ^ Sunakawa, Ellie; Willmore, Alison; Varner, Will; Rosenberg, Shannon; Nguyen, Dao; Hua, Bryant (2015-05-07). "31 Things All Half-Asians Know To Be True". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  6. ^ Chew, Erin (2016-03-22). "Are we using the word 'Hapa' in the wrong context?". You Offend Me You Offend My Family. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  7. ^ Gamble, Adriane E. (October 2009). "Hapas: Emerging Identity, Emerging Terms and Labels & the Social Construction of Race" (PDF). Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies. II. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  8. ^ Huynh-Hohnbaum & Yoo 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.".
  9. ^ Bernstein & Cruz 2009, p. 723: "Today, 'hapa' is used to describe any person of mixed East and South East Asian or Pacific Islander descent."
  10. ^ Ozaki & 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 & Heidenreich 2006)."
  11. ^ 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 East or Southeast Asian American."
  12. ^ Taniguchi & Heidenreich 2006, p. 135: "In the United States, individuals recognized the term as meaning mixed Asian/Pacific Islander or, more popularly, part Asian."
  13. ^ a b Downes, Lawrence (2017-03-11). "In Los Angeles, a Festival of Love and Hapa-ness". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  14. ^ Office of Management and Budget (30 October 1997), "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity", Office of Management and Budget, archived from the original on 2017-01-21 – via National Archives
  15. ^ 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.""
  16. ^ "Hapa Haole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  17. ^ Pukui, Mary Kawena; Elbert, Samuel (March 1, 1986). Hawaiian Dictionary. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824807030.
  18. ^ Judd, Gerrit Parmele (1961). Hawaii : an informal history. Collier-Macmillan. p. 136. OCLC 1035087443. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  19. ^ Kanahele, George S.; Berger, John, eds. (2012) [1979]. Hawaiian Music & Musicians (2nd ed.). Honolulu, HI, USA: Mutual Publishing, LLC. ISBN 9781566479677. OCLC 808415079.
  20. ^ Haas, Michael (2011). Barack Obama, the Aloha Zen President: How a Son of the 50th State May Revitalize America Based on 12 Multicultural Principles. Praeger. p. 152. ISBN 9780313394027. OCLC 714891924. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  21. ^ Shepherd, John (2003). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. II: Performance and Production. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 450. ISBN 9780826463227. OCLC 50235133. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  22. ^ Taniguchi & Heidenreich 2006, p. 38: "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."
  23. ^ a b Dariotis 2007.
  24. ^ a b Johnson 2016.
  25. ^ NeSmith 2018.
  26. ^ Asakawa, Gil (2015) [2004]. Being Japanese American (2nd ed.). Stone Bridge Press. p. preface page 2. ISBN 978-1611720228. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  27. ^ "2010 Festival Award Winners". Reel Asian International Film Festival. 2010-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-19.



Journal articles[edit]



  • NeSmith, Richard Keao (2018). "The Etymology of Hapa". Japanese American National Museum. Event occurs at 44:35-45:10.

External links[edit]