Useful Hawaiian Words and Phrases

Aloha: The most common expression in the islands. It can mean hello and goodbye, welcome or farewell. It can also mean romantic affection or best wishes. Aloha is a general good feeling you will find everywhere on Maui!

Akamai: Someone who is very smart.

Awa: Milkfish; a large, silvery, scaly fish with a high dorsal fin that can reach 6 feet long.

Aznuts: Ridiculous or out of your mind.

Bodda You? Does this bother you?

Braddah: Brother; Bro.

Brah: All the bros in Hawaii are Brahs; brothers; pals.

Break: Waves; wave action.

Brok' Da Mout: Tastes really delicous; yummy grinds!

Bumbye: When we get around to it; after a little while.

Choke: Meaning "a lot of something"; many; a large amount.

Choke Cars: Heavy traffic.

Da’ Kine: The real thing; a whatchamacallit; "you know what I mean?".

Dat: That.

Dirty Lick'ns: A Spanking.

Eriding: Everything; all of it.

Eh!: You know!

'Ey!: Attention getter, (yell).

Fadda: Father, Dad.

Fo' Real?: Are you serious?

Fo' Shua!: For sure!

Geev' um: Give it to them; go for it; give it hell. If a surfer is up on
Da' Kine wave, the crowd watching may yell "Geev um, Brah!".

Grind: To eat like there's no tomorrow.

Haad Rub: Having a hard time; Bad time; feeling uncomfortable.

Hale: House or building; often combined with other words to name a specific place such as Haleakala (House of the Sun).

Hailepo: Spotted Eagle Ray, a 6 foot ray with white underside, black topside with white spots and rings and a long, thin tail. 

Haole: A word that used to mean foreigner, but now means a white person or Caucasian.

Hawaiian Time: Late.

Ho Brah...: Prelude to describing something intense or amazing.

Honu: This is the Hawaiian word for Sea Turtle. Our Green Sea Turtles were almost hunted to extinction in the 1970's but with legislation and luck, they have made a strong comeback. We see several Honu on almost every dive here at Shaka Divers!

Howzit?: What’s happening? How’s it going? Frequently used informally by the locals in place of "Aloha".

Hula: A native Hawaiian dance where the rhythm of the islands is captured in swaying hips and stories are told by lyrically moving the hands. Dancers wear native attire, Leis, grass skirts and even Coconut Bras!.

Huli Huli: To flip over and over; rotiserrie, also barbecue, like in Huli Huli chicken.

Humu Humu Nuku Nuku Apua'a: Hawaii's official State Fish. Also known as a Rectangular Trigger.

Jalike?: Would you like to (do something)?

Junk: Not good; lousy; rotten.

K'Den: OK then; Agreed.

Kahuna: This means priest, sorcerer, doctor, or other highly skilled person. Commonly used as "Da Big Kahuna".

Kala: The Bluespined Unicornfish; he has bright blue spines at the base of his tail and a horn on his forehead. 

Kamaaina: A long time island resident or local. Oftentimes, hotels and airlines will offer special discounts called "Kamaaina Rates" to anyone who can prove their island residency.

Kane: Man. When written on a door, it means "Men’s Room".

Kapu: Forbidden; taboo; poison; keep out; or do not touch.

Keiki: Child or children; kids.

Kihikihi: Moorish Idol; a beautiful, tropical reef fish with an orange and white striped snout; black, yellow and white vertical stripes on body and a long dorsal filament.

Kokua: Help or assistance, as in "Your Kokua is needed to keep these islands free of litter. Mahalo!"

Kolohe: Rascal; Trouble maker; Punk.

Lanai: Porch or veranda; the patio. Hotel rooms usually cost more if the Lanai has an ocean or sunset view.

Lei: A traditional garland of flowers or vines. One of Hawaii’s most beautiful customs, usually given at special occasions and especially upon arrival to or departure from the islands. "Kamana-Wanna-Lei-Ya!"

Lesgo: Let’s go; do it. "Lesgo bust one Da' Kine dive, Brah!"

Like Beef?: You want to fight?

Local Style: Anything typical of the way people do things in Hawaii; laid back; relaxed.

Lolo Buggah: A stupid or crazy guy.

Lua: Bathroom.

Luau: A Hawaiian feast featuring Poi, imu baked pork, poke, and other traditional island foods. Make sure you bring your appetite and your Aloha Shirt!

Maki Die Dead: Very much dead; extremely dead.

Manini: The Convict Tang; a small, whitish reef fish with 5 or 6 vertical black bars. 

Mahalo: Thanks or Thank You! "Mahalo Nui Loa" means "Thank you very much!".

Makai: Toward the sea or seaside. Often used when giving directions.

Malihini: A newcomer, tenderfoot or recent arrival.

Mano: Shark. Most common are the white tip reef sharks. Mostly harmless.

Mauka: Towards the mountains, also used when giving directions as in "Mauka-side of the highway."

Mauna: Mountain, often combined with other words to be more descriptive, like in "Mauna Kea (White Mountain), over on the Big Island, often has snow on it in the winter."

Moana: The ocean or the sea.

Mo’ Bettah: Real good; great idea. "Mo' Bubbles is Mo' Bettah!"

Moke: Extremely large, local, tough guy.

Moi Moi: Sleep.

Muumuu: One of those big, long, flowery dresses that have become fashionable at almost any island occasion.

No Act: Quit showing off.

Ohana: A family. Many homes in Hawaii have an Ohana Cottage which could also be known as a guest house.

Okole: Your butt or rear end.

Ono: Delicious; delightful or the best; groovy. Ono ono means absolutely delicious. Also a much sought after white, flaky ocean fish found on many seafood menus.

Onoliscious: Overly delicious!

Pali: Cliff. Be careful not to drive off the Pali during whale season!

Pau: Finished or done. Often used as Pau hana which means end of work or quitting time.

Pakalolo: Crazy smoke; marijuana; Maui-wowie.

Planny: A lot, plenty; plentiful, choke.

Poi: A glutinous paste made from pounding taro root. Purplish in color and kind of sour tasting, it is a staple that can be found at all authentic Luaus.

Puhi: Refers to most species of moray eels found in Hawaii. 

Puka: A hole of any size.

Pu pu: An appetizer, snack or Hors D’oeuvres. Could be anything from cheese and crackers to chips and salsa to sushi.

Roi: The Peacock Grouper, an introduced species found on many reefs in Hawaii.

Shaka: Great or excellent; "Cool!"; brilliant; having fun; good job. A hand signal originally made popular by surfers where you stick out the thumb and pinky and fold the other three fingers in; "Hang Loose!".

Slippas: This is also known as a pair of "flip-flops" or Sandals. Usually the $3.00 plastic kind you see in the drug store. Most comfortable footwear we know of! Favorites include: "Locals", "Surfers", and "Uluas" among others.

Frowning at someone, using facial expression to show displeasure. Also "Stinkeye".

Ta'ape: The Bluestripe Snapper, an introduced species with yellow and blue stripes along body. They reach about 12 inches and are usually found in large schools of several hundred fish or more. 

Tako: Octopus. Very popular ingredient in Poke, a Hawaiian salsa.

Talk Stink: Speaking bad about someone.

Try Move: (Please) move out of the way.

Uhu: Parrot fish. Each one supposedly eats enough coral to produce a ton of new sand each year. This means when you're having a snack on the beach, you're really just "Havin' Pu pu's on Uhu doo doo!" Nice!

Uku: A Grey Snapper: a 3 foot long, bluish gray to silvery gray fish usually found in midwater in deeper parts of the reef.

Ukulele: The small, four or eight stringed folk instrument with the unique Hawaiian sound. Made famous by Tiny Tim.

Ulua: Many species of "Jacks" and "Trevally" are found here. The Hawaiians call them all "Ulua".

Wahine: A young woman or girl; female; wife. Written on a door it means "Ladies Room".

Wat Doing: What the "bleep" do you think you're doing??

We Go: Let's get out of here; split.

Wiki: Quick or fast; in a hurry. Often seen as "Wiki wiki" which means very fast!

Handy Hawaiian Phrases

Aloha Ahiahi: Good evening.

Aloha au ia oe: I love you.

Aloha Kakahiaka: Good morning.

Aloha nui loa: Much love; fondest regards.

Hana Ho!: Encore; one more time!

Hauoli la hanau: Happy Birthday.

Hauoli Makahiki hau: Happy New Year.

Komo mai: Please come in; enter; welcome.

Mele Kalikimaka: Merry Christmas.

Okole maluna!: Bottoms up! Cheers!

"We Love To Dive!"
Come See For Yourself!

© 1999 - 2012

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This page was updated for you on
September 28, 2010 by Doug Corbin

24 Hakoi Place, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii 96753
Phone (808) 250-1234