Hawaiian Words Revealed! How to “Talk Story”…Or Not… With Oahu Locals
Fair warning… Hawaiian words and local-style communication are difficult to master without growing up on the island!
After living on Oahu for many years, my sons… raised on Oahu… still had a good laugh when I tried to speak Pidgin English or Hawaiian. My newly-acquired neighbor pegged me as a FOB… fresh off the boat… even though I had already spent more than six years as a resident.
If you try to speak like a local too quickly, it will be obvious immediately that you are a malihini… newcomer. Choose your Hawaiian words and gestures wisely!
Aloha has many meanings… hello, goodbye, many kinds of love, kindness
Did you know the complete Hawaiian alphabet has only 7 consonants… H, K, L, M, N, P, W… and 5 vowels… A, E, I, O, U? Vowels are pronounced differently depending on the word… Haole sounds like Howlay… while maile sounds like mylee. In some Hawaiian words such as… Ewa Beach… the W sounds like a V.
Check out these 3 sections to learn some Hawaiian words and begin relating with Oahu’s culture.
Section 1 defines some common Hawaiian Pidgin English words and phrases, local-style foods and a few Hawaiian words.
Hawaiian Pidgin English is a unique language that developed in the Hawaiian Islands so non-English speaking immigrants could speak to each other as well as communicate with English-speaking people. Hawaiian Pidgin English words are derived from a blending of many cultures.
Sections 2 and 3 are helpful Hawaiian words and Hawaiian phrases listed in alphabetical order. These sections include videos so you can listen to the words being pronounced.
You can also click the link below to see detailed maps of Oahu and hear Oahu streets and cities pronounced. New visitors will benefit from understanding that most of Oahu streets and cities are composed of Hawaiian words.
1. Common Pidgin English Words, Hawaiian Words and Local-Style Foods
Glad it’s Friday, TGIF. Looking forward to the weekend. Some businesses allow casual dress, especially aloha attire, on Fridays.
Locals refer to adolescent and adult females they are fond of as Auntie, even when not related to them. Let’s go to Auntie Lani’s house.
When a child turns 1, their birthday is celebrated by having a large party known as a baby luau with Hawaiian food and music.
Japanese-inspired takeout boxed lunch adapted to local taste.
A male who is bald.
What males refer to each other in a friendly greeting.
Broke the Mouth
Food that is mouthwateringly delicious.
Used to reference a male. He’s one lazy buggah!
Broken, hurt, bad condition. Kimo’s surfboard all buss up from hitting the reef!
Chicken long rice
Chinese-inspired chicken dish with long, thin noodles.
Bumps that appear on the skin from being frightened or awed by something (goosebumps).
Chile and rice
White steamed rice with chile poured over the top. Commonly found in Oahu restaurants.
An abundance of something. Joel has choke surfboards, yeah?
Choke your neck
The threat of punishment. Trouble coming. Take out the garbage before I choke your neck.
A rural area. Usually refers to North Shore, Oahu. Let’s go surf country.
Used to refer to a close friend or a real cousin.
Curry spiced meals such as stew curry are common on Oahu.
Term used when you cannot remember what something or someone is called. Throw me da kine so I can change the channel.
Surfing term meaning to surf really early in the morning.
Not hearing something or tuning someone out when you don’t want to listen. Listen to me… you get one deaf ear or what?
Eating establishments with local-style food and plate lunches are common on Oahu. You either eat at the restaurant or pick up the food to take out.
Usually used at the beginning of a sentence to gain attention. Eh, what you like do tomorrow?
Used in giving directions. Refers to going towards Ewa Beach or West. Go Ewa on Ala Moana Blvd from Waikiki to get to the airport.
Sucker punch or unexpected hit. He’s gonna get one false crack if he keeps it up.
Are you kidding or telling the truth? Fo real, you won a trip to Maui?
Fresh off the boat. A newcomer to Hawaii who does not understand the customs yet.
A diver who does not use scuba tanks. Usually refers to a diver who is able to hold his breath for long periods while spear fishing.
Strange or unusual. She dresses funny kine, yeah?
Japanese seaweed seasoning.
Desired surfing condition. Waves are smooth and look like glass due to low winds.
Something that is enjoyable. Lani’s party was good fun, yeah?
Grind means to eat. Good grinds mean delicious food.
Usually refers to items in a local-style plate lunch with mixed meats, poultry or fish with white steamed rice and macaroni or potato salad.
The local way of life in Hawaii.
Local way to greet someone. Hi, hello, how are you today? Can be used along with the shaka hand gesture.
Huli huli chicken
Rotisserie chicken often used for fundraising.
Hawaii’s State fish also known as trigger fish. Break down in syllables for easier pronunciation. Humu humu nuku nuku a pua’a
Oahu’s official flower.
Customary way things are done in the Hawaiian Islands.
Something that is no good or not liked. My job is so junk!
To pretend or joke. I buss up your surfboard. Jus joke!
Korean style beef short ribs common in Oahu restaurants.
Kalua pork and cabbage
A Hawaiian food favorite that is popular at luaus.
Korean barbecue restaurants are popular on Oahu.
A type of Chinese sausage.
Meaning at a later time. Laterz brah…telling a male friend you will see him later.
Hawaiian dish with pork, fish or chicken steamed in ti leaves.
Li Hing Mui
Chinese sweet and salty spice used as a flavoring on crack seed, popcorn and other foods.
Beat up, spanking, punishment. You want your father to give you lickings?
To argue or get into a fight. Why you looking at me like dat? You like beef?
A male who was either born in Hawaii or grew up in the islands.
How the locals approach life in the islands.
Lomi lomi salmon
Hawaiian dish of salt rubbed salmon cut into bite size pieces with tomatoes and onions.
Lucky you live Hawaii!
Showing appreciation for living in the islands. The Mainland is having a really harsh winter! Lucky you live Hawaii!
The plant the maile lei is made from. Maile leis were used for royalty and are now the preferred leis for the groom at weddings.
What locals call the 48 contiguous United States.
Towards the ocean. Used when giving someone directions. Go makai on Ward Avenue.
A type of Portuguese donut deep fried and then rolled in sugar.
A popular Chinese bun most commonly filled with sweet pork.
Towards the mountains. Commonly used in giving directions. Go mauka on Likelike Highway to go to Kaneohe.
Mentally deranged or not thinking straight. Are you mento or what?
Better than something else. Your house mo better!
Japanese pounded rice filled with azuki bean paste or other fillings such as fruit.
Japanese rice crackers. A popular snack with the locals.
Simply dressed local male who speaks heavy Pidgin English and has a harsh character.
Don’t pretend. No act you! I know you like him!
Can’t do something. Fo real, no can come surf today!
Something not liked. No like talk in front of one audience!
Don’t need something. Fo real, no need help with the dishes. I will do them later.
Nothing to be ashamed of. No shame, you did your best in the hula competition!
Are you joking or telling the truth? You won a trip to Vegas? Not even!
Tasty food. Your dinner was so ono.
Very delicious food. Have you tried Auntie’s onolicious butter mochi?
Hawaiian style beef jerky
Common meal found at diners and drive-in style takeout restaurants with mixed meats, fish, white steamed rice and macaroni or potato salad.
Traditional Hawaiian poi is made from the taro plant.
Bite-sized raw fish mixed with ingredients like onions, tomatoes and red chile sauce.
Filipino dish with pork and green peas.
Portuguese bean soup
Popular soup with beans and Portuguese sausage.
Local style appetizers.
Oriental noodle soup with egg, fish cake, char siu and green onions.
Similar to something else. Local style and Hawaiian style… same smell.
Japanese style sliced raw fish.
Get details about something, gossip. Give me the scoops on their breakup.
To fight. You like scrap with me?
Friendly hand gesture to acknowledge someone. Similar to waving to someone to say hello, goodbye, how are you, good to see you, etc.
Ice shaved off an ice block, put in a cone-shaped cup and saturated with liquid fruit flavors. Other ingredients such as ice cream may be added to the bottom of the cup.
Urinate. My dog learned to shi shi outside on my command while he was being house broken.
To agree or concur. Shoots, try wait. I like go dive too.
Local way of saying soy sauce.
Friendly way to address a female.
Local way of saying thongs, zoris, flip flops. Slippers are probably the most commonly worn shoes in the Hawaiian Islands by both males and females.
Something good or favorable. Chosen well. I get one solid job!
Spam sautéed in shoyu with sugar and pressed onto white steamed rice and wrapped in nori. A local favorite.
Thai hot sauce.
To give someone a dirty look. Did you see her give me stink eye?
Octopus. Sounds like taco.
To talk bad about someone or something, gossip. I heard them talk stink about Lani.
To have a conversation. Spend time talking in a group or with individuals. My boss gets upset when we talk story too much at work.
Important plant in the Hawaiian culture used to make poi.
Japanese batter used for deep frying meats and vegetables. Shrimp tempura is ono.
Japanese sauce used for marinating meat such as teriyaki beef, chicken, shrimp. The shortened version “teri” is used when ordering food… teri beef.
Female equivalent of moke. Crude, hardened, simply dressed female who speaks heavy Pidgin.
To da max
Extreme, highest degree, best. To do something the best way possible. He rode that wave to da max.
Come here or please come with me.
Try this, you might like it.
Look at this.
Please be patient. Wait a minute.
Favorable way locals address a male friend or acquaintance, even if not related.
Unbelievable, awesome. Did you see than unreal wahine?
We go already.
Tired of waiting, impatience. Let’s go now.
Do you agree? Used at the end of a sentence, but does not necessarily require a response. Probably the most common Hawaiian Pidgin English term used and easiest to become accustomed to using. That movie was good, yeah?
2. Hear Hawaiian Words and Hawaiian Phrases A to K Pronounced
A Hui Ho
Until we meet again
Hello, goodbye, many types of love, kindness. One of the most commonly known Hawaiian Words.
Aloha Nui Loa
Very much love
Farewell to you
Group of hula dancers
Encore, do again
O’ahu marine conservation park
Caucasian or foreigner. One of the common Hawaiian words.
Hawaiian Islands or Big Island of Hawai’i
Ancient worship site
Hawaiian dance. One of the Hawaiian words known to outsiders.
O’ahu official flower
Outdoor underground oven
Expert or priest
Locally born or long-time resident
Forbidden, keep out
Sweetheart. One of the Hawaiian words found engraved on jewelry.
3. Hear Hawaiian Words and Hawaiian Phrases L to W Pronounced
Balcony, porch, veranda. This is one of the common Hawaiian words used in the islands.
Flower, leaf, shell or nut necklace. One of the Hawaiian words known to visitors.
Seaweed, algae, lichen, moss
Hawaiian feast. One of the Hawaiian words well known to visitors.
Thank you. This is one of the Hawaiian words used frequently by locals
Mahalo Nui Loa
Thank you very much
Towards the ocean
Stingy or of little significance
Towards the mountains
Hawaiian goose, State bird
Hawaiian Island with Capitol City of Honolulu
Finished with work
Small guitar-like instrument