Did you know… There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet:
a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m n, p and w.

To help prepare you for your visit to Kauai, we have provided a short list of some of the most common Hawaiian words and expressions. For more complete Hawaiian language information, please visit our Related Links page.

  • ‘aina | Land, earth.
  • alelo | Tongue, language.
  • aloha | Love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity; greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, loved one; beloved, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, lovable; to love, be fond of; to show kindness, mercy, pity, charity, affection; to venerate; to remember with affection; to greet, hail. Greetings! Hello! Good-by! Farewell! Alas!
  • aloha ‘aina | Love of the land; to nurture and care for the land.
  • halau | Long house, as for canoes or hula instruction; meeting house.
  • hula | 1. A dance characterized by rhythmic body movements, a hula dancer; to dance the hula. 2. Song or chant used for the hula; to sing or chant for a hula.
  • huli | To turn, reverse; to curl over, as a breaker; to change, as an opinion or manner of living.
  • kai | Sea, sea water; area near the sea, seaside, lowlands; tide, current in the sea.
  • kama’aina | Native-born, one born in a place, host; acquainted, familiar. (Commonly referred to a long-time resident of Hawai’i, as distinguished from a visitor.)
  • kanaka maoli | Full-blooded Hawaiian person. (Also refers to an indigenous person of Hawai’i whose ancestry predates the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778, such as a Native Hawaiian.)
  • kapa | Tapa, as made from the inner bark of various plants.
  • ki’i pohaku | Stone carving, petroglyph.
  • kokua | Help, aid, assistance, relief, assistant, associate, deputy, helper; co-operation; to help, assist, support, accommodate.
  • kumu | 1. Teacher, tutor. 2. Beginning, source, origin; starting point. 3. Bottom, base, foundation, basis, main stalk of a tree, trunk, handle, root; hereditary, fundamental. 4. Reason, cause, goal, justification, motive, grounds, purpose, object, why.
  • kupuna | 1. Grandparent, ancestor, relative or close friend of the grandparent’s generation, grandaunt, granduncle. 2. Starting point, source; growing.
  • lei | Garland, wreath; necklace of flowers, leaves, shells, ivory, feathers, or paper, given as a symbol of affection; beads; any ornament worn around the head or about the neck; to wear a lei; crown.
  • lu’au | Hawaiian feast, named for the taro tops always served at one. This is not an ancient name, but goes back at least to 1856, when so used by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser newspaper; formerly a feast was pa’ina or ‘aha’aina.
  • mahalo | 1. Thanks, gratitude; to thank. 2. Admiration, praise, esteem, regards, respects; to admire, praise, appreciate.
  • makai | On the seaside, towards the sea, in the direction of the sea.
  • makua | Parent, any relative of the parent’s generation, as uncle, aunt, cousin; progenitor; main stalk of a plant; adult; full-grown, mature, older, senior.
  • malama | To take care of, tend, attend, care for, preserve, protect, maintain; care, preservation, support, fidelity, loyalty; caretaker, keeper.
  • malihini |Stranger, foreigner, newcomer, tourist, guest, company; one unfamiliar with a place or custom; new, unfamiliar, unusual, rare, introduced, of foreign origin; for the first time.
  • mauka | Inland, upland, towards the mountain, in the direction of the uplands.
  • mele | Song, anthem, or chant of any kind; poem, poetry; to sing, chant.
  • nalu | Wave, surf; full of waves; to form waves; wavy, as wood grain.
  • ‘ohana | Family, relative, kin group; related.
  • ‘olapa | Dancer, as contrasted with the chanter or ho’opa’a (memorizer); now, any dance accompanied by chanting and drumming on a gourd drum.
  • ‘olelo | Language, speech, word, quotation, statement, utterance, term; to speak, say, state, talk, mention, quote, converse, tell; oral, verbatim, verbal.
  • oli |Chant that was not danced to, especially with prolonged phrases chanted in one breath; to chant thus.
  • ‘ono | Delicious, tasty, savory; to relish, crave; deliciousness, flavor, savor.
  • pilikia | Trouble of any kind, great or small; problem, nuisance, bother, distress, adversity, affliction, accident, difficulty, inconvenience, perturbation, tragedy, lack; in trouble, troubled, bothered, cramped, crowded. See ‘a’ole pilikia.
  • pule | Prayer, incantation, blessing, grace; to pray, worship, ask a blessing.
  • ‘ukulele | A four-stringed instrument shaped similar to a very small guitar. (Literally defined as “leaping flea”; probably derived from the Hawaiian nickname of Edward Purvis, who was small and quick and who popularized this instrument brought to Hawai’i by the Portuguese in 1879.)
  • wai | Water, liquid or liquor or any kind other than sea water; to flow, like water, fluid.
  • wikiwiki | Fast, speedy; to hurry, hasten; quick, fast, swift.