10 Hawaiian words and phrases to learn | The Column by Trafalgar

Hawaii is one of the USA’s most beautiful and exotic destinations to holiday. From its Polynesian roots, Hawaii has a unique cultural identity that’s reflected in the use of Hawaiian language. Once in danger of extinction, Hawaiian is one of three languages used in the state today. Play your part in keeping the language alive and learn these 10 useful Hawaiian words and phrases before you go.

1. Aloha – Hello

Pronounced a-lo-ha

hawaii words aloha sand

Okay, so this is an easy one to remember. This tropical greeting is known around the world, but its literal meaning is ‘love’. In Hawaii, Aloha means more than ‘hello’; it expresses wishes for a positive and respectful life.

Use Aloha kakahiaka to say, ‘good morning’, Aloha ‘auinalā for ‘good afternoon’ and Aloha ahiahi for ‘good evening’.


2. Mahalo – Thank you

Pronounced mah-hah-loh

hawaii trip dining

Show your gratitude for The Good Life with the simple word mahalo. If you’re feeling extra grateful, use mahalo nui loa (pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee) for ‘thank you very much’.


3.‘A’ ole palikir – You’re welcome/ No problem

Pronounced ah-oh-leh pee-lee-kee-yah

trafalgar hawaii farm produce

If someone says ‘Mahalo’ to you, this is the phrase to respond with.


4. A hui hou – Until we meet again

Pronounced ah-hoo-wee-ho-oo-uu

Hawaii hula dancers sunset

A phrase similar to ‘see you soon’. You may also hear this chanted at a lū‘au concert  instead of ‘encore!’.


5. Howzit? – How are you?

Pronounced how-zit

hawaii drinks stand trafalgar

This informal greeting is also used in South Africa and means ‘what’s up?’. You might hear this word used alongside braddah, the colloquial term for brother.


6. Honu – Green sea turtle

Pronounced hoe-new

green sea turtle hawaii

Hawaii’s most commonly seen turtle species, the beautiful honu are still officially listed as endangered. You’re most likely to spot one if you are snorkelling or scuba diving, as they rarely come on the shore. It is possible to see honu on the North Shore of Oahu.


7. ‘Ono grinds – Delicious food

Pronounced oh-no grinds

hawaiian food plates

Show your appreciation for the special Hawaiian meals that you eat on your trip. Grinds is also often used on its own to describe good food.


8. Waina – Wine

Pronounced wy-nah

Hawaiian wine tasting

Always an important word to learn in any language, the Hawaiian word for wine is easy enough to remember. Due to the volcanic soil and mountains, Hawaii produces a number of fruity wines to try.


9. A ‘o ia! – There you have it!

Pronounced ah-oy-yah

Hawaiian welcome lei

Use this to cheer on the local performers or fellow travellers if they get up to do a hula.


10. Poke – poke seafood bowl

Pronounced poh-keh

poke bowl hawaii

One of Hawaii’s most famous dishes, poke is a salad of raw seafood and vegetables. It’s typically made from cubes of ahi tuna and served as an appetiser. It’s a must try!

Find out more about the fascinating culture and beauty of Hawaii on our destination guide. Or let us know about your favourite Hawaiian experiences below!

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