Moke (slang)

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For the Hawaiian islands known as the "Mokes", see Na Mokulua.

Moke is a term used in the British Isles as slang for "donkey".[1] In Australia it refers to a nag or inferior horse,[1] and is employed by residents of the Hawaiian Islands in similar fashion as the British to derogatorily describe segments of the local Polynesian population. In practice, the word "moke" is similar to "redneck", as it is only used to describe a certain personality type, instead of an entire ethnic group.[2]

In literature[edit]

John William's A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands (1832) is one of the earliest records of Mokes in literature. Williams, a missionary with the London Missionary Society, equates mokes with "Heathen Darkness", a claim that portends the later antagonism between whites and Hawaiians over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.[3]

Later portrayals include W. S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs,[4] and Paul Theroux's Hotel Honolulu.[5]

Also of note is the reference in Captain Joshua Slocum's Voyage of the Liberdade,[6] where the term refers to a native of the Bahamas.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Eye of Hawaii - Pidgin, The Unofficial Language of Hawaii". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Williams, John. A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands; with Remarks upon the Natural History of the Islands, Origin, Languages, Traditions, and Usages of the Inhabitants. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1837. p. 2
  4. ^ Merwin, W. S. The Folding Cliffs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Press, 2001.
  5. ^ Theroux, Paul. Hotel Honolulu. Boston: Mariner Books, 2001.
  6. ^ Slocum, Captain Joshua. Voyage of the Liberdade. New York: Dover Publications, 1998.