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This article is about a term for a person of mixed ethnic heritage. For the psychological theory of health behavior change, see Health action process approach.

Hapa is a term for a person of mixed ethnic heritage. The term originates in Hawaii from the Hawaiian word for "half", "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 Pacific American descent. Therefore, there are two concurrent usages.[4][5][6][7][8][9][a]

Etymology and usage[edit]

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

The term hapa comes from a Hawaiian 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.[9]

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).[11][12]

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.[13]

Some see the use of the term as a misappropriation of Hawaiian culture.[1][14][15] Others take a stronger stand in discouraging its usage and misuse as they consider the term to be vulgar and racist.[16] The term clearly had racist origins; it was used as a derogatory term equivalent to other similar terms such as "half-breed" and "mulatto." It was initially used to degrade mixed-race children of plantation guest workers in Hawaii from the Philippines, China, Japan and Korea in the early part of the 20th century.[17]

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.[18] 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,[19] and include titles such as "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua" and "Sweet Leilani".[20]

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".[10]



  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. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Office of Management and Budget (30 October 1997), Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, US Government, archived from the original on 2017-01-17 
  11. ^ 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.""
  12. ^ "Hapa Haole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  13. ^ Gerrit Parmele Judd IV (1961). Hawaii: an informal history. Collier Books. p. 136. 
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ Dariotis (2007)
  16. ^ Asakawa, Gil (2015) [2004]. Being Japanese American (2nd ed.). Stone Bridge Press. p. preface page 2. ISBN 978-1611720228. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  17. ^ Laughlin, Alex. "'Half Asian'? 'Half White'? No — 'Hapa'". npr.org. National Public Radio. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  18. ^ 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)
  19. ^ "Barack Obama, the Aloha Zen President". google.com. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World". google.com. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 



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