Hawaiian Language Translations and Pronunciations Plus a Little Pidgin

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Understanding the Hawaiian Language

Hawaii does have a language all its own but it has now been interspersed with English. Signs like the one above are common, using a combination of languages. Many locals speak Pidgin, which is a kind of broken English with elements of Hawaiian and Portuguese.

Kokua - This means help. When in Hawaii you will see signs like this asking to please kokua and do something. The grocery stores will ask that you kokua by returning your carts (or buggies, as they are commonly called in Hawaii) to the proper place.

Mahalo - This means thank you. It is mixed in with english quite often.

Aloha - Aloha means hello and goodbye. Hawaiian's also call the general attitude of Hawaii the Aloha spirit. Also, there is a silly little song that gets played on the news on Friday's. It goes like this: "It's Aloha Friday, No work 'till Monday..."

The Likelike Highway - This is one of the main roads in O'ahu. It is pronounced Leaky-Leaky.

The Kamehameha Highway - Another main road of Hawaii, named after King Kamehameha. This is pronounced Cah-May-ah-May-ah.

O'ahu - Hawaiians pronounce this as oh-awe-hoo.

Slippahs - This refers to shoes, especially slip on shoes.

Cock-a-roach - To steal

Grind - Food.

Pau (Pow) - Done. When a child finishes their meal it is common for them to say all pau.

Haole (how-lay) - This is a racial slur for a Caucasian person. It's not nice.

Ono - Good or delicious

Kine or Da Kine - Good.

Ice - Crystal Meth. A large problem in Hawaii.

All bus - broken, ruined.

Yah - nearly all sentences are followed by this. It means nothing. The person speaking is not looking for confirmation. It is just part of the speaking pattern.

Stink eye - dirty looks.

Talking story - gossip, idle chit chat.

Howzit - How are you?

Keiki (kay-key) - Child

Lolo - Stupid, dumb

Talk Stink - Speak badly of someone

Tutu - Grandma

Malasadas (ma-la-sod-ahhs) - Hawaii's amazing equivalent of a donut. Usually sold out of trucks in supermarket parking lots. Try one!

Honu (ha-new) - Sea Turtle

Makai (mah-kai) - Toward the Sea. Hawaiians more often use Makai or Mauka than East and West when giving directions.

Mauka (mou-kah) - Towards the Mountains

Moana (mow-ahn-ah) - Ocean

O'hana (oh-haw-nah) - Family. Could refer to immediate family or larger community.

Puka (poo-kah) - a hole

Wahine (wah-hee-nay) - Girl. Often posted on ladies room doors.

Pidgin uses grammar that is completely different than traditional English. It can be somewhat hard to understand at first. For example: You like go store? This means, do you want to go to the store, not do you like going to the store. Notice how 'do you' and 'to the' are dropped completely. With these tips you should be able to understand most things that people say to you. The use of pidgin is widespread throughout the island, seeming to affect all social classes, although it does vary in just how intertwined it is with traditional English.

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Comments 3 comments

Mike k. 4 years ago

Is there a Hawaiian word meaning "first"


Me 2 years ago

Ekahi means 1


Daniel 2 years ago

Wow- if you have no idea how to pronounce somebody else's language, you probably shouldn't include a phonetic guide to pronouncing their words...

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