How to Understand Spoken Hawaiian Pidgin Language

This inscription in Hawaiian Pidgin (New Testament, Mark 1:9-11) was photographed at the Yardenit baptismal site on the Jordan River in Israel by Prokurator11 on March 11, 2011.
This inscription in Hawaiian Pidgin (New Testament, Mark 1:9-11) was photographed at the Yardenit baptismal site on the Jordan River in Israel by Prokurator11 on March 11, 2011. | Source

What is Hawai‘i Creole or Pidgin?

Hawai‘i Creole (Pidgin) is the language which originated on the sugar plantations in Hawai‘i in the middle of the 19th century.

What are pidgin and creole?

Linguists use the terms pidgin and creole to distinguish between two forms of speech which are very different from each other. (The terms, technical in nature, always begin with lowercase letters.)

When two groups of people have to communicate, and they don't speak a common language, they develop a simplified language in order to be understood by each other. This simplified language, which is spoken in addition to their native language, is a pidgin. It usually consists of no more than 300 words.

Children of pidgin speakers often expand the pidgin vocabulary. Pronunciation is refined and grammar rules are added. The vocabulary increases as much as 10-fold. With as many as 3000 words, the language spoken by the children of the pidgin speakers is now a creole. The children of the pidgin speakers are the native speakers of the creole language. The creole language is their primary language.

The simplified language is a pidgin. The expanded version—a language—is a creole.

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Hibiscus | Source
Hibiscus
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Hibiscus
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Hibiscus
Hibiscus | Source

Why was Hawai‘i Creole developed?

In the 19th century, the Caucasian owners and operators of the sugar plantations needed additional laborers to work on their plantations.There weren't enough native Hawaiians to do all the work required to run successful plantations, so the owners brought indentured laborers from several countries—China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Portugal, among others—to Hawaii to tend to the fields and do whatever else was needed to operate the plantations.

Pidgin Hawaiian developed as way for the laborers from all these countries to communicate with each other. Pidgin Hawaiian evolved into Pidgin English.

Pidgin English was used in the schools, the communities, and even at home. As the children grew older, many more words were added to the vocabulary, and Pidgin English changed. This simplified language (pidgin) evolved into a creole, which linguists have called Hawai‘i Creole. (Many people refer to Hawai‘i Creole as "Pidgin.")

Hawai‘i Creole: Words, Pronunciation, Meaning

The following are some examples of Hawai‘i Creole—words, phonetc pronunciation, and meaning.

Hawai‘i Creole Word
Phonetic Pronunciation
Meaning
ai yah
eye yah
oops; shucks; darn
aina
eye nah
earth; land
akamai
ah ka mai
sharp; smart; intelligent
aurite
ow right!
alright; woo hoo; yippee
B-52
be feefty two
enormous cockroach
braddah or bruddah
brah dah or bruh dah
an endearing way to call somebody; also used when you don't remember the dude's name
broke da mouth (1)
broke duh mowt
really, really, REALLY ono (delicious)!
bumboocha
bahm boo cha
huge; large; big
chance um
chance ahm
go for it!; take a chance
choke
chohhhk
a lot; a large amount in quantity
da
duh
the
da kine
duh kai-n
used when trying to explain something when you can’t think of the words
dat
dat
that
even steven
even steven
even; equal
fo’ real
pho reeeeel
Are you for real? Are you serious? You have got to be kidding me!
geev um
gheeve ‘uhm
try your best; go for it; don’t give up
guaranz ballbaranz
gha ranz ball bahr anz
a guarantee; a sure thing
humuhumunukunukuapua`a
who moo who moo noo koo noo koo ah pooh ah ah
trigger fish (official state fish)
i no kid you
eye no keed you
I’m serious. I’m not kidding.
irraz
ear ahz
irritating; annoying
junk
jahnk
not good; boring
kahiko
kah hee koh
old fashioned; old customs; old person
lokahi
low kah hee
unity; peace; in agreement
lolo
low low
crazy; strange
make “a”
make ay
to make a fool of one’s self
niele
knee eh lay
nosy; inquisitive; curious
no
no
yes; don’t you agree?; right?
okole (1)
oh koh lay
bottom; butt
okole maluna (1)
oh koh lay mah loo nah
bottoms up!
old fut
ol’ fut
old; old person
ono
oh no
scrumptious; tasty; delicious
partay
pah tay
party
pilikia
pi lee key ah
nuisance; problem; trouble
rat bite
rat bite
bad haircut, especially one that shows the scalp through the hair
sistah
siss tah
female equivalent of braddah
small kid time
shmall kid time
back in the day; when one was younger
snap
shnap
get angry or upset
solid
sah lid
very good; excellent; choice
tantaran
tahn tah lahn
show off; overly showy; boastful
trippy
trip ee
neat; cool; amazing
tutu
two two
grandmother; wise, old woman
tutu kane (1)
two two kah knee
grandfather
ujee
ooh jhee
gross; disgusting
wen
when
did, to do; when

(1) My thanks to Lisa Furugen (rusticliving) for providing these additions to my list.

Hawaiian Flowers

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This Hibiscus was photographed by Erielhonanon December 1, 2011.This Crotalaria was photographed by Eric Guinther on October 10, 2004.
This Hibiscus was photographed by Erielhonanon December 1, 2011.
This Hibiscus was photographed by Erielhonanon December 1, 2011. | Source
This Crotalaria was photographed by Eric Guinther on October 10, 2004.
This Crotalaria was photographed by Eric Guinther on October 10, 2004. | Source

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Comments 28 comments

Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 3 years ago from California

I love this. Feels like home :) I have a couple of words for you to add to your list . You have tutu already for Grandmother..add Tutu Kane for Grandfather :) Also Okole (bottom or butt) and Okole Maluna (Bottoms up!) oh yes.. and one more..lol the phrase "Broke da mouth" which means that the food was really really REALLY ono! (delicious) Great job my little daisy! ♥♥ Mahalo nui!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States

This is a very interesting hub and I didn't know this history. Voted up!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Brought back some memories for me, thanks, sistah!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Lisa (Rusticliving),

Mahalo for reading my article and being the first person to comment. Thanks, too, for providing the additional words. I've added them to the chart.

I'm glad my Hub has the seal of approval from someone who lived in Hawaii for 20 years.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Pam (Pamela99),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I frequently write Hubs which are *gently educational*. I'm glad you learned something from this one.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Lela (Austinstar),

Mahalo for reading my article and commenting. I know you lived in Hawaii for a number of years. I'm glad my Hub brought back some memories for you.


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

What an interesting hub. I did not know about this language in Hawaii. I have a friend from there and I may have to impress her with some of your words. Thanks!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Glimmer Twin Fan,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I've heard Hawai‘i Creole spoken in Hawaii and in California by people who have lived in Hawaii. I didn't know the name of the language until I began doing the research for my article.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 3 years ago from United States

Interesting read. Have visited Hawaii a few times and never cared to listen to them until now...will do so.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Ruchira,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I appreciate it.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 3 years ago from Orange County, CA

Thanks for clarifying this language -- many people think it's just bad English. Linguists, on the other hand, classify pidgins as legitimate languages with their own grammatical rules and vocabulary. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio,

Thanks for reading my article. During my research I read exactly what you mentioned in your comment. Linguists have concluded that Hawai‘i Creole is a language...a creole...which evolved from the simplified language (pidgin) used by the workers on the sugar plantations.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

What a fantastic language! I remember years ago my mum telling me about pidgin English, but I believe it was from papua new guinea, similar I would imagine, the saying that she knew was when prince charles visited there they called him, pikinini belony mrs queen! lol! love it!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nell,

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment.

According to what I found online after reading your comment, when Prince Charles visited Papua New Guinea, he introduced himself as "nambawan pikinini bilong misis kwin"...the "number one child belonging to Mrs Queen." The phrase appears to be a combination of English and another language.


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 3 years ago from Kentucky

Daisy - Sorry I'm late. I'm still trying to catch up! Great hub. Pidgin English really doesn't seem that difficult. Of course, being a "mixed" language, instead of it's own, that's easy to understand. I'm reminded of the older classics "Hawaii" & "Donovan's Reef" while reading this. Another great job!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rich (rcrumple),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. I appreicate your support of my writing.

There isn't any need to apologize for not reading this as soon as it was published. Your taking time off to deal with some health issues was much more important.

You're correct...because Hawai‘i Creole evolved from Pidgin English, it's easier to understand than a totally "new" language.

Were you also reminded of Bloody Mary in South Pacific?


mercuryservices profile image

mercuryservices 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

Interesting hub. Pidgin seems like a cool dialect. I'm moving to Hawaii next month so I'm absorbing all I can about it now.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Alex (mercuryservices),

Welcome to HubPages. It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment.

Good luck with your move to Hawaii. To which island are you moving? If you go to my HP profile, you'll see that one one of my geography quizzes is about Hawaii.


howlermunkey profile image

howlermunkey 3 years ago from Tampa, FL

This is a great reference, and the header picture rocks. Thanks for explaining the origin of pidgin, not what I thought at all. Someday I'd like to see that sign in person. I've been to Hawaii once, and I hope to make it back someday (bucketlist). Filing this one in my languages folder. :)


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

Very cool indeed. If I ever need to use pidgin I'll know where to go for assistance:)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Jeff (howlermonkey),

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment.

It's amazing, isn't it, that Hawaiian Creole can be found on a beautiful sign on the banks of the Jordan River in Israel?


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Linda (Sunshine625),

Thanks for reading my article, sistah, and commenting in it.

There were da kine Hawaiian Creole words which I couldn't include in my chart.

Da HP Moderators wouldn't have liked dat if I did, and my article wouldn't have lasted very long guaranz ballbaranz. I no kid you.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

I had no idea Pidgin English was so big in Hawaii! I know it is used in many places as a combination of two different languages but reading this hub was so interesting. Dis hub aurite!

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (tillsontitan),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub. I appreciate your continued support of my writing.

Hawai‘i Creole is a very useful way for people coming to Hawai'i from many nations to communicate with each other.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

Daisy,

102 communities living in Nepal use 92 languages in Nepal that is according to latest census. But sadly I can speak only one language and can understand two languages.

I may perhaps never travel to Hawaii, and never use this language. However, I enjoyed this thorough lesson on Hawaiian dialect.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Vinaya,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I appreciate your providing some insight into the languages spoken in Nepal. I had no idea there was such a vast array of languages used in your country.

Even if one is never going to speak Hawai'i Creole or travel to the beautiful state of Hawai'i, reading about the origins and development of the language adds to one's general knowledge, which is always a good thing.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

Hawaii is one of the many places on my Bucket List! This was so interesting. I'm bookmarking this so if and when I get there, I can communicate better.

Voted UP and shared.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mary (mary615),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub and bookmarking it.

I hope you are able to cross Hawaii off your bucket list. The various islands all have many wonderful "must see" places.

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