Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Proverbs

‘Ōlelo Hawai’i in English means Hawaiian Language. ‘Ōlelo No’eau are traditional and cultural proverbs.  As you move through the Roost you will see Hawaiian words, localisms or cultural and traditional words and phrases.  This section is intended to give you the backstory, meanings and intentions to better understand what is shared on the Roost and in the weekly newsletter, The Coconut Wireless. Language is another way to bring Aloha to your household , your office or your in-box.


Land division from Mountain to Sea.  A land which is tendered and nurtured by its inhabitants, by its caretakers.

A Hui Hou

Until we meet again.  Hawaiians like most indigenous people don’t have a word for goodbye (or anything negative).

‘Aina Haina

A residential district on the east side of the Island between Kahala and Niu Valley.


Translated means street and common sense smart as well as intelligent.


Is the Hawaiian word for a type of fish known as the skipjack tuna.  A local favorite in Hawaii and throughout the world.  However, it is also a word we use to say when we describe something is going away from us.  For example, "Hele aku." describes someone walking in a direction away from us versus "Hele mai." which is walking towards us.


Divine, supernatural, godly. To the Hawaiians Akua is the immortal spirit who protects all living things.  Like most indigenous nations, there are many akua.


In Hawaiian it is a person who leads with initiative and intention.  Intention of gaining trust and respect.  For every Alaka'i, there is a Kumu who guides and shepherds their learning.  Who prepares them to accept and understand the depth of their knowledge.  And who ensures their duty and respect to the wisdom.


Hawaiian word for Chiefly Rank; the hereditary lines of rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii.


The most common usage is “Hello” or “Goodbye”.  Though there is so much more, let’s begin with this.  As shared through the generations from our ancestors, our kupuna, Pilahi Paki expressed Aloha in definitive terms as a way of being that is:

  • A – Akahai – Hawaiʻi meaning Kindness to be expressed with a feeling of tenderness
  • L – Lōkahi – Hawaiʻi meaning Unity to be expressed with a feeling of harmony
  • O – ʻOluʻolu – Hawaiʻi meaning Agreeable to be expressed with a feeling of pleasantness
  • H – Haʻahaʻa – Hawaiʻi meaning Humility to be expressed with a feeling of modesty
  • A – Ahonui – Hawaiʻi meaning Patience to be applied with perseverance 

‘Ano'ai - True Hawaiian Greeting

Not one greater than another.


For many indigenous native people, their universe pays homage and respect to spiritual beings for knowledge, understanding, order and protection.  To the Hawaiians, it is a family or personal god who protects and provides wisdom.


An expression of “I’m not ready for this” or wonder, surprise, fear, and pity.


A local Hawaii term used to acknowledge the network of extended family developed by growing up around shared meals, chores and close friendships.

Chicken Skin

A tingly feeling that causes tiny bumps to raise on your skin.  Once the tingly feeling passes, the tiny bumps disappear.  I usually get chicken skin in a ‘ah-ha’ moment or when my guardian angels are near.

Coconut Wireless

A local “Hawai’i” term to explain the fast and efficient word-of-mouth communication (distribution of information).

Cromwell’s (or Doris Dukes)

A local south shore swim spot at the base of Diamond near the Doris Duke’s home.

Doris Duke

A local identification for the beach at the end of Kaikuono Place at the base of Diamond Head.  Named after the tobacco tycoon heir, Doris Duke.  Her home is perched above the beach along the cliff and is now called Doris Duke’s Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures.

Duck Soup

Easy, something that doesn’t take much effort.  A no brainer.

The breath of your inner essence and life.  The important understanding here is a breath cannot be taken without it being given.


Is a method of braiding fern, flowers, shrubs into a lei.


A person regardless of age who is loved “adopted” into a family.  In pre-Western society it was a process where one family gave to another.  It was the epitome of love and both sides are bound by intent without formal paperwork.

For example my grandmother (Dad’s mother) gave one of one of her sons and daughters to her sister.  My grandmother had 16 children who survived infancy.  Up until the hānai, the sister had not been able to conceive and it was believed she could not have children.  As a sign of love, my grandmother gave her sister, my aunty Kūlia and uncle Robert.  Both grew up in Hanalei on the island Kauai.


A pupil or disciple.  Normally in a student/teacher (Kumu) relationship.  The pupil by helping the teacher receives oral and practical knowledge.

Hau’oli Lā Hānau

Happy Birthday (Happy Day Birth)


The name of the 50th State and one of the islands within the State. (fyi…Hawai’i was also the name of Tahiti pre-western contact)

Hawai’i Kai

In Hawaiian it means, “Community by the Sea”, it is located on the Southeastern coast of O’ahu, between Kuliouou and Waimanalo along Highway 72.  According to the 2000 Census Hawaii Kai housed 27,657 people.  Eighteen years later the population tops 32,000.  It’s also home to my sister and her family.


This term is used as a way to formally share learning, knowledge, experience and wisdom.

Holo Holo

To go for fun and pleasure.  Growing up, my parents would holo holo with us as a way learn about people, place, food, and culture.


A cultural adaptation of an Western gown.


In Hawaiian it means “Sheltered Bay”.  It is also the place of Hawai’i’s capital, located on the Island of O’ahu.


To work with purposeful intentions.


Keeping the promises you make to yourself.

Ho‘oma'a (or Ho'oma'ama'a)

To practice, to become familiar with, to become experienced.

Keeping the promises you make to yourself.


In Hawaiian it means a group, an alliance.  (In ‘A Hui Hou’ a hui is we/us)



ʻike kūhohonu

Deep knowledge.

'Ike Loa

Gain experience and wisdom through intentional and purposeful work.


A delicate orange flower use to make lei.  It is also the flower representing the Island lei of O’ahu.

I mua

To be truly committed and moving forward toward a goal with a sense of duty and grace.

Ka’ala (Mount Ka’a’a)

Kaʻala or Mount Kaʻala is the highest mountain on the island of Oahu, at 4,025 feet. It is a part of the Waianae Range, an eroded shield volcano on the west side of the island.  It is also home to the twin children, Kauaki’owa and Kauawa’ahila twin children of Chief Kahaakea, in the myth of Ka Punahou


A neighborhood on the Island of O’ahu commonly known as the ‘Gold Coast’ which extends East from Diamond Head along the beach.  This area was home to pig farms and pikake groves​


A two-step process to clean.  Commonly used to remove the residue from the sides of a bowl of poi.


A staff and a symbol of Hawaiian Ali’i.  The markings on the Kāhili signify the family and their ranking.


An expert of many professions.  Derived from the word Kahu to mean keeper and custodian.  In Hawaii, this person could also be a Priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, or minister.  After 1845 and due the laws at that time, Kahuna became the term used for doctors, dentists.

Ka’iulani (Princess)

Translated means “The Royal Sacred One”.  Born Princess Victoria Kawēkiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapala Ka’iulani, descendant of the Highest Ruling Ali’i, King David Kalākaua.  She was heir to the throne after Queen Lili’uokalani.


Water God.


Inclusive “we”, three or more.


Last reigning King and predecessor to Queen Lili’uokalani.  Born David Laʻamea Kamananakapu Mahinulani Naloiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua and known as the Merrie Monarch.  He advocated the restoration of Hawaiian social order with its customs and ideas.  In Hawaiian it means “The Day of The Battle”.

Kalaniana’ole (Highway)

Is the family name of the prince of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.  Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole (March 26, 1871 – January 7, 1922) was the last reigning prince until its overthrow by a coalition of American and European businessmen in 1893.  It is also a stretch of highway connecting Kahala and Windward side of O’ahu.

Kalihi (Ka Lihi)

Ahupua’a (a portion of land) on the Island of O’ahu which stretched from the uplands of Kalihi to the ocean near Pearl Harbor.  Translated means “The Edge”.

Kalo (Taro)

(Colocasia esculenta), also called eddo or dasheen.   It is THE staple of the Hawaiian diet.  The corm of the Kalo is harvested and consumed as cooked vegetables, used in breads or puddings.  The leaves are used to make stews.  The Hawaiians would steam and pound it.  Pai’ai is the state of the Kalo once it’s pounded down with little water.  It’s consistency resembles a very thick paste.  It becomes Poi when more water is added a slightly smoother texture.


The perennial flow of water in Mānoa allows wetland taro to be cultivated year-round.


The hidden and deeper meaning of a person, place, thing or act.  It also allows for duplicity.  A metaphor of sorts.


Religious law or practices that ruled every aspect of Hawaiian life.  Traditionally, it identified what different casts of people could do or not do and it was based on the Hawaiian belief of spiritual power (mana).


In Hawaiian, it means “worn out soul” and some translate it to mean “nightmare”.  It is also a small neighborhood tucked near Diamond Head on the south shore of Waikīkī on the island of O’ahu.  Home to a local plate lunch favorite, Rainbow Drive-in.  After a fun day of surfing, Rainbow Drive-in was the go-to for a quick bite before heading home.

Ka Punahou

Is the name for a fresh water spring located at the base of Tantulus in Makiki Valley.  In Mo’olelo o Hawaii, Ka Punahou describes how it came to be.  Had it not been for Kakea, the water God, Kauaki’owa and Kauawa’ahila twin children of Chief Kahaakea from Ka’ala Mountains, we would not have Ka Punahou.

The children lost their mother during childbirth and the Chief’s heart was broken.  After years of loneliness, Chief Kahaakea married Hawea.  During the Chief’s long trips away, Hawea abused the twins and they ran away finding refuge in the Ka’ala Mountains.

It was when they were in hiding they were befriended by Kakea to help them bring water from Wailele spring and the Kanawai pond.


The female sister character in a mo’olelo which describes the existence of Ka Punahou.


The male brother character in a mo’olelo which describes the existence of Ka Punahou.


A State Park on the ocean side of Kalaniane’ole Highway near Niu Valley.

Ke Ano Wa’a

In Hawaiian it means “The Outrigger Way”.  Originally framed by Dr. George Kanahele for the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts.  It describe their core values to mindfully care for their guests, employees and place.

Metaphorically, the outrigger is also used to describe a journey and “ano” refers to a way of reverence, peacefulness and sacredness.

Ke Koa

There is so much more but to keep it simple, it is translated as The Warrior or Brave One. (Koa is also the Acacia Koa tree).  Ke Koa is the given name of my brother, the youngest sibling in our family.

Koko Head

Originally named “Kohelepelepe” meaning “traveling vagina” in Hawaiian, Koko Crater is the 1,208 foot volcanic cone over Hawaii Kai with an opening on one side — hence, its name.  According to legend, the crater was created in this shape during Pele’s epic battle with Kamapua’a, the pig demigod.  In Hawaiian the word “Koko” means blood, referring to the battle between Pepe and Kamapua’a.

Ku'i (Hula Step)

As shared by Kalani N. Poʻomaiahealani, hop onto the right foot moving to the right while bringing the left heel with the toes pointing to the extreme left, approximately 6" in front of the right knee being sure that the body doesn't bounce (isolate action to the legs). The hop is executed 4 times then repeated to the left. Note: a loud stomping sound is preferred when executing the hops
Definition: 1. To pound, punch, strike; to beat out; to churn, 2.To join, stitch, sew, splice, united; joined; seam Hula kuʻi, any interpretive hula so called since the days of Kalakaua; literally, joined


Literally means to string together the ‘Ilima blossoms.  It is also the name of the wind that sings throughout Honolulu.


In its simplest form Kuleana addresses the responsibility and ownership of one person’s obligation to another, to family, to community, to place and to the universe.

In Managing Aloha, the author, Rosa Say describes Kuleana as “one’s personal sense of responsibility. The person possessing Kuleana, believes in the strength of this value, and will be quick to say, “I accept my responsibilities, and I will be held accountable.”

Kuleana weaves empowerment, new learning and eager ownership into the opportunity which has been captured.  There is a transformation in Kuleana, one that comes from ho‘ohiki, keeping the promises you make to yourself.”


A residential district on the east side of the Island just before Hawai’i Kai.


A teacher or mentor.  Someone who passes knowledge from one mouth to another.


In Hawaiian mythology, Kupua is a demigod.


Grandparent, great grandparent, great great grandparent and so on.  They are your ancestors.


The name given to Diamond Head by 19th Century British Soldiers who found a bounty of calcite crystals originally thought to be diamonds.  To the elders who roamed the crater thousands of years ago, the crater resembled that of the back and brow of the aku (skipjack tuna).  It is said to get its name from Hi'aka, Pele's sister.

Lili’uokalani (Queen)

Hawaii’s only Queen and last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  Her full name is Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha.


The Hawaiian word for seaweed.

Limu Ele’ele

A family favorite.  Representing long silky green hair, this varietal is typically found in places where fresh water meets the ocean.

Limu Kohu

A family favorite.  Soft and fuzzy.  If my memory serves right, it was easy to spot by its rich purple color.

Limu Lipoa

A family favorite.  Representing leaf-like and golden in color.


The leaf (leaves) of the kalo (taro) plant.


By 1819 When King Kamehameha II (birth name Liholiho) abolished the Hawaiian traditional religious (kapu) practices.  A lū’au emerged where the Monarchy would eat with the people.

Luau Stew

A stew of broth, luau leaves, salt and meat.  Many people use pork butt.  My dad preferred chuck beef with ginger and ‘ōpae added to the broth.


In Hawaiian, it means to be accustomed, used to, knowing thoroughly, habituated, familiar, experienced. Or in simpler terms, to have knowledge through experience and practice.


Thank you.  Mahalo must always be accompanied with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude.


This is a Western translation and literally means gift, prize or reward.  However, traditionally there is no specific word for "the thing which is given".  The more important aspect of the exchange is the intentional action.  The desire to share.  The Hawaiians truly lived, 'what is mine is not mine, it's ours."


Located on the eastern side of O’ahu and a local body surfing, surfing and fishing treasure.  In Hawaiian mythology, Kupua after Kupua from the different islands joined the voyaging company lead by High Priest Pa’ao.  One kupua arriving to O’ahu was Makapu’u after whom Makapu’u point on O’ahu is named.  Another was her sister ‘Ihi’ihilauakea for who a hill near Koko Head was named.  The little hunchbacked is Malei and is still seen in the shape of a stone near the Makapu’u lighthouse (Pukui Folktales of Hawaii ‘68).

Makīkī (Makīkī Valley)

An an area in Honolulu, west of Punahou.


Throughout Polynesia, Mana is a worldview of the spiritual and physical relationship.  It is a spiritual energy with supernatural origin and sacred force.  To posses Mana is to be influential, of a higher power, in authority.

Mānoa (Mānoa Valley)

An area in Honolulu east of Punahou and home to the University of Hawai’i.


Maunalua is located at the southeast end of O’ahu.  It’s name means “Two Mountains,” referring to Koko Head and Koko Crater.  A dry, waterless area, it belonged to the Ahupua’a of Waimanalo and served as a fishing area for the people.


The wind of the Ahupua’a Wai’alae

Merrie Monarch

The Kingdom of Hawaii’s last reigning King, David Kalākaua was affectionately known as the Merrie Monarch.  King David Kalākaua inspired the perpetuation of Hawaiian traditions, practices, native language and arts, and in his honor Merrie Monarch inspires Hawaii’s traditions with an annual festival in Hilo, Hawai’i.


One of the eight islands forming the State of Hawaii.  Moloka’i is also known as the “Friendly Isle”.


The ancient stories handed down from generation to generation to explain persons, places and things.  (Mo’olelo o Hawai’i Stories of Hawai’i)


In Hawaiian its your most inner conviction of your intellect, thoughts, and affection.


In Hawaiian it's a place where you are enlightened, learned, wise, intelligent, have wisdom and patience.

Na Pua


Niu (Niu Valley)

An area on the east side of O’ahu between the ‘Aina Haina and Kuliouou residential district.


One of seven islands in the State of Hawaii and affectionately known as the ‘Gathering Place’.  O’ahu is home to Honolulu, Hawai’i’s Capital. (I was raised along the southern shores between the Waikīkī and Wai’alae)


In Hawaiian it is family; members bound together by blood, adopted (Hanai), or intention.  All members are united in Aloha to cooperate and remember each other.


Language or speak.

‘Ōlelo Hawai’i

Hawaiian language or speak Hawaiian.

‘Ōlelo No’eau

Cultural and traditional proverbs or wise sayings.

‘Ōpae (‘Ōpae’ula)

Dried red shrimp


Is the state of the Kalo once it’s pounded and pounded and pounded and pounded down with little water; it is the consistency of a very thick paste.

Pai Pai

To encourage, stir up, to raise.  When we fish in shallow waters, one way of directing the fish into the net is to pai pai (slap) the water and guide the fish into the net.  We also pai pai the ocean surface as way to let the ocean know we are ready.  Send the waves.


Palama is a neighborhood in the Kalihi district of O’ahu.  It is also a non-profit neighborhood social service agency established in 1896.  To the community, Palama represented a safe haven for children.  It provided social, educational and athletic programs to build incredible human beings.  It kept vulnerable children off the streets and showed them an alternative to crime and gangs.  Palama during the first half of the 1900’s was the most impoverished, crime-ridden and culturally rich areas of O’ahu.  My dad often said, “Palama saved me from the wrong side of the tracks.”  I can’t tell you how many times, regardless of age, I would hear, “You Palama.”  And nothing else was needed to share family, heritage, tradition, practice, character, constitution.


In Hawaiian mythology, Papa is the goddess of the earth and the underworld.  Papa is also an affectionate and local name for grandfather.

Pau Hana

Translated it means ‘finish work’.  In practice it means, work is done and it’s time for relaxation, camaraderie and fun.


It means peacock in Hawaiian, symbolic of the attachment, Princess Ka’iulani enjoyed with her favorite avian pet.  The Pikake is also a delicate white aromatic flower known as Jasmine and lined her home in Waikīkī.


A Hawaiian staple.


Popolo is the nightshade plant which bore black almost purple berries.  It's a term used to describe someone with very, very dark skin.


Flower (singular or when used in a sentence would be written as ‘Ka Pua’)

Pua Melia

Plumeria.  The colors of this flower range from white to a deep pink/maroon.  For the Punahou Holokū, we used the beautiful yellow flower.


To pray, honor and respect.


My alma mater.  Named for the spring, Ka Punahou it sits on.  Originally a mission, it was founded in 1841.  Punahou celebrated its 175th birthday in 2016.


Traditionally, it a ti leaf wrap to act as a container and carrier of food.  Today, we use it to wrap or bundle things, personal belongings or treasured items and food.


A virtual and physical home base.


An affection term used by locals to refer to a woman who is not related but affectionately thought of as someone dear and close, like a sister.


A long standing neighborhood in Honolulu County East of Diamond Head and running along the base of the crater between Kāhala and Kapahulu


Waimānalo. Homes located in the ahupua’a of Waimānalo. Photo taken by Kauila Team. Waimānalo is the Hawaiian definition of potable water, or drinking water.


The island of Oahu is made of two volcanoes: Waianae and Koolau.  The word is a combination of Wai, “Water or body of water” and Anae meaning “mullet”.


Wailupe is located on the south shore of O’ahu eastward of Kahala.  In Hawaiian, Wailup means “kite water” as it was one of the prescribed places to fly kites in ancient Hawai’i. Wailupe may also be translated as “the water of. Lupe,” a meaning from an ancient mo’olelo.


In Hawaiian mythology, Wākea is the god of light, sky and the heavens.


It's the Hawaiian word to mean talk, or having a conversation.  As one local using it to describe another, it describes someone who has a craft for the conversation.