Hawaiian Words

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.

 

Detailed Maps of Oahu with Cities and Streets Pronounced

 


1. Common Pidgin English Words, Hawaiian Words and Local-Style Foods

 

Aloha Friday                                                                                           

Glad it’s Friday, TGIF. Looking forward to the weekend. Some businesses allow casual dress, especially aloha attire, on Fridays.

Auntie

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.

Baby luau

When a child turns 1, their birthday is celebrated by having a large party known as a baby luau with Hawaiian food and music.

Bento

Japanese-inspired takeout boxed lunch adapted to local taste.

Bolo head

A male who is bald.

Braddah, Brah

What males refer to each other in a friendly greeting.

Broke the Mouth

Food that is mouthwateringly delicious.

Buggah

Used to reference a male. He’s one lazy buggah!

Buss up

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.

Chicken skin

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.

Choke

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.

Country

A rural area. Usually refers to North Shore, Oahu. Let’s go surf country.

Cousin/Cuz

Used to refer to a close friend or a real cousin.

Curry

Curry spiced meals such as stew curry are common on Oahu.

Da kine

Term used when you cannot remember what something or someone is called. Throw me da kine so I can change the channel.

Dawn patrol

Surfing term meaning to surf really early in the morning.

Deaf ear

Not hearing something or tuning someone out when you don’t want to listen. Listen to me… you get one deaf ear or what?

Drive-in

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.

Eh

Usually used at the beginning of a sentence to gain attention. Eh, what you like do tomorrow?

Ewa

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.

False crack

Sucker punch or unexpected hit. He’s gonna get one false crack if he keeps it up.

Fo real?

Are you kidding or telling the truth? Fo real, you won a trip to Maui?

FOB

Fresh off the boat. A newcomer to Hawaii who does not understand the customs yet.

Free diver

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.

Funny kine

Strange or unusual. She dresses funny kine, yeah?

Furikake

Japanese seaweed seasoning.

Glassy

Desired surfing condition. Waves are smooth and look like glass due to low winds.

Good fun

Something that is enjoyable. Lani’s party was good fun, yeah?

Good grinds

Grind means to eat. Good grinds mean delicious food.

Hawaiian barbecue

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.

Hawaiian style

The local way of life in Hawaii.

Howzit?

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.

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a

Hawaii’s State fish also known as trigger fish. Break down in syllables for easier pronunciation. Humu humu nuku nuku a pua’a

Ilima

Oahu’s official flower.

Island style

Customary way things are done in the Hawaiian Islands.

Junk

Something that is no good or not liked. My job is so junk!

Jus joke

To pretend or joke. I buss up your surfboard. Jus joke!

Kalbi

Korean style beef short ribs common in Oahu restaurants.

Kalua pork and cabbage

A Hawaiian food favorite that is popular at luaus.

Kau Kau

Food

Korean barbecue

Korean barbecue restaurants are popular on Oahu.

Lap cheong

A type of Chinese sausage.

Laterz

Meaning at a later time. Laterz brah…telling a male friend you will see him later.

Lau Lau

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.

Lickings

Beat up, spanking, punishment. You want your father to give you lickings?

Like beef?

To argue or get into a fight. Why you looking at me like dat? You like beef?

Local boy

A male who was either born in Hawaii or grew up in the islands.

Local style

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!

Mahalo, Mahalos

Thank you.

Maile

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.

Mainland

What locals call the 48 contiguous United States.

Makai

Towards the ocean. Used when giving someone directions. Go makai on Ward Avenue.

Malasadas

A type of Portuguese donut deep fried and then rolled in sugar.

Manapua

A popular Chinese bun most commonly filled with sweet pork.

Mauka

Towards the mountains. Commonly used in giving directions. Go mauka on Likelike Highway to go to Kaneohe.

Mento

Mentally deranged or not thinking straight. Are you mento or what?

Mo better

Better than something else. Your house mo better!

Mochi

Japanese pounded rice filled with azuki bean paste or other fillings such as fruit.

Mochi crunch

Japanese rice crackers. A popular snack with the locals.

Moke

Simply dressed local male who speaks heavy Pidgin English and has a harsh character.

No act!

Don’t pretend. No act you! I know you like him!

No can

Can’t do something. Fo real, no can come surf today!

No like

Something not liked. No like talk in front of one audience!

No need

Don’t need something. Fo real, no need help with the dishes. I will do them later.

No shame

Nothing to be ashamed of. No shame, you did your best in the hula competition!

Nori

Japanese seaweed.

Not even

Are you joking or telling the truth? You won a trip to Vegas? Not even!

Ono

Tasty food. Your dinner was so ono.

Onolicious

Very delicious food. Have you tried Auntie’s onolicious butter mochi?

Pipi Kaula

Hawaiian style beef jerky

Plate lunch

Common meal found at diners and drive-in style takeout restaurants with mixed meats, fish, white steamed rice and macaroni or potato salad.

Poi

Traditional Hawaiian poi is made from the taro plant.

Poke

Bite-sized raw fish mixed with ingredients like onions, tomatoes and red chile sauce.

Pork Guisantes

Filipino dish with pork and green peas.

Portuguese bean soup

Popular soup with beans and Portuguese sausage.

Pupus

Local style appetizers.

Saimin

Oriental noodle soup with egg, fish cake, char siu and green onions.

Same smell

Similar to something else. Local style and Hawaiian style… same smell.

Sashimi

Japanese style sliced raw fish.

Scoops

Get details about something, gossip. Give me the scoops on their breakup.

Scrap

To fight. You like scrap with me?

Shaka

Friendly hand gesture to acknowledge someone. Similar to waving to someone to say hello, goodbye, how are you, good to see you, etc.

Shave ice

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.

Shi shi

Urinate. My dog learned to shi shi outside on my command while he was being house broken.

Shoots

To agree or concur. Shoots, try wait. I like go dive too.

Shoyu

Local way of saying soy sauce.

Sistah

Friendly way to address a female.

Slippahs/Slippers

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.

Solid

Something good or favorable. Chosen well. I get one solid job!

Spam musubi

Spam sautéed in shoyu with sugar and pressed onto white steamed rice and wrapped in nori. A local favorite.

Sriracha

Thai hot sauce.

Stink eye

To give someone a dirty look. Did you see her give me stink eye?

Tako

Octopus. Sounds like taco.

Talk stink

To talk bad about someone or something, gossip. I heard them talk stink about Lani.

Talk story

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.

Taro

Important plant in the Hawaiian culture used to make poi.

Tempura

Japanese batter used for deep frying meats and vegetables. Shrimp tempura is ono.

Teriyaki/Teri

Japanese sauce used for marinating meat such as teriyaki beef, chicken, shrimp. The shortened version “teri” is used when ordering food… teri beef.

Tita

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.

Try come.

Come here or please come with me.

Try like.

Try this, you might like it.

Try look.

Look at this.

Try wait.

Please be patient. Wait a minute.

Ukus

Head lice.

Uncle

Favorable way locals address a male friend or acquaintance, even if not related.

Unreal

Unbelievable, awesome. Did you see than unreal wahine?

We go already.

Tired of waiting, impatience. Let’s go now.

Yeah

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

Aina

Land

Akamai

Intelligent, clever
Akua

God

Aloha

Hello, goodbye, many types of love, kindness. One of the most commonly known Hawaiian Words.

Aloha Nui Loa

Very much love
Aloha ‘Oe

Farewell to you
Halau

Group of hula dancers
Hale

House
Hana

Work

Hana Hou

Encore, do again
Hanai

Adopted
Hanauma Bay

O’ahu marine conservation park
Haole

Caucasian or foreigner. One of the common Hawaiian words.
Hapa

Part, portion
Hapa Haole

Part Caucasian

Hapai

Pregnant
Hau’ol

iHappy, joyful

Haupia

Coconut pudding

Hawai’i

Hawaiian Islands or Big Island of Hawai’i

Heiau

Ancient worship site

Honu

Turtle

Hula

Hawaiian dance. One of the Hawaiian words known to outsiders.

Ilima

O’ahu official flower

Imu

Outdoor underground oven

Kahuna

Expert or priest

Kama’aina

Locally born or long-time resident

Kane

Man, male

Kapu

Forbidden, keep out

Keiki

Kid, children

Kokua

Assist, help

Kuleana

Responsibility, right

Kumu Hula

Hula teacher

Kupuna

Ancestor, grandparent

Ku’uipo

Sweetheart. One of the Hawaiian words found engraved on jewelry.

3. Hear Hawaiian Words and Hawaiian Phrases L to W Pronounced

Lanai

Balcony, porch, veranda. This is one of the common Hawaiian words used in the islands.

Lei

Flower, leaf, shell or nut necklace. One of the Hawaiian words known to visitors.

Limu

Seaweed, algae, lichen, moss

Lolo

Crazy

Lua

Toilet

Luau

Hawaiian feast. One of the Hawaiian words well known to visitors.

Mahalo

Thank you. This is one of the Hawaiian words used frequently by locals

Mahalo Nui Loa

Thank you very much

Makai

Towards the ocean

Malihini

Newcomer, visitor

Manini

Stingy or of little significance

Mauka

Towards the mountains

Mele Kalikimaka

Merry Christmas

Moana

Ocean

Momona

Obese, large

Nalu

Wave

Nene

Hawaiian goose, State bird

Niu

Coconut

O’ahu

Hawaiian Island with Capitol City of Honolulu

Ohana

Family, relatives

Ono

Delicious

Pali

Cliff

Paniolo

Cowboy

Pau

Finished, completed

Pau Hana

Finished with work

Pua

Flower

Puka

Hole, opening

‘Ukulele

Small guitar-like instrument

Wahine

Woman, female

Wana

Sea urchin

Wikiwiki

speedy, quick