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The Hawaiian Language | 27 Easy Hawaiian Words to learn

a person standing next to a body of water

The Hawaiian Language

Hawaii is the 50th and most recent state of America since Aug 1959, and also the only state which has two official languages, Hawaiian and English. Most of the towns, streets and places have Hawaiian names.

The language originated from the Polynesians, where most native Hawaiians migrated from about 2000 years ago. Also, the Hawaiian language is one of the oldest languages in the world. 

When British discoverer James Cook first landed in Waimea, Kauai in 1778, the island’s name was written in English for the first time. Back then, Hawaiian was the only language spoken on the islands.

But unfortunately, over the time this native hawaiian language began to decline and English became the official language. By 1950 only 1% of the population who lived in Hawaii spoke Hawaiian. Additionally, Hula was banned. Despite that, now the beautiful dance that’s a big part of Hawaiian culture is now a big part of the tourism industry in Hawaii. Make sure to watch a free Hula Show while you are in Hawaii.

However, when you arrive at an Hawaiian airport or cruise ship, you will always be welcomed with the traditional Lei garland, made out of orchids and a nice “ALOHA”.

Many people try to keep this historic hawaiian language alive and as of today it is still taught at the University of Hawaii, where you can even obtain a Master’s degree. 

Helpful Words in Hawaii 

  • Aloha – Hello, goodbye, and also love
  • Mahalo – Thank you
  • Ohana – Family, but also used to express love with co-workers
  • Kama’aina – a long-term resident of the Hawaiian islands
  • Lei – A necklace, made of flowers, shells, leaves or kukui nuts
  • Hula – A traditional Hawaiian dance
  • Luau – an event with hula dancing and also a traditional Hawaiian buffet
  • Wahine – Women, you will see that sign at restrooms doors
  • Kane – Men, important for bathroom distinctions.
  • Keiki – Children
  • Lanai – Balcony or also patio.
  • Kokua – Help  
  • Mahalo for your kokua – Thank you for your assistance
  • Vog – Smog from the volcano on the Big Island
  • Howzit – How are you
  • Kai – Sea
  • Lani – Sky
  • Moku – Island
  • Honu – Turtle
  • Wai – Water
  • Lua – Two  (Wailua is a town in Kauai) 
  • Ala – Street
  • Moana –  Ocean (Ala Moana is a street in Honolulu on the beach)
  • Na – The
  • Pali – Cliff (a beautiful coast on the west side of Kauai) 
  • Hono – Bay
  • Honolulu – Sheltered bay