Hawaiian Language Guide
Speak Like the Locals During Your Trip to Kauai
Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959 but still values its culture and heritage through adopting two official state languages. Both English and Hawaiian are spoken on our islands and you’ll most likely hear our locals conversing in Hawaiian or even weaving common Hawaiian words and English words together.
The Hawaiian alphabet is comprised of 13 letters with five vowels and eight consonants. You’ll also see unique punctuation like our ‘okina which indicates a glottal stop. For example, in Hawaiian it’d be Hawai’i compared to the English Hawaii. The stop is very quick, think of the slight pause similar to saying “uh-oh!”
Our alphabet includes A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and the ‘okina.
As written documentation of our language evolved, some letters were lost as some letters were interchangeable. The letter K was interchangeable with the letter T, K was kept, and the letter W was interchangeable with the letter V, and W was kept. You may hear V-sounds in our language but the words are spelled with a W. Don’t worry, at Whaler’s Cove Resort we have no spelling test!
We welcome you to try speaking our ‘ōlelo (language) on Kauai and have provided a few common words and Hawaiian phrases:
Aloha: A word synonymous with the spirit of Hawaii and a word that carries a variety of meanings. It can be used as a greeting or a way to say goodbye, or a way to show love and affection.
A hui hou: Until we meet again.
E komo mai: Welcome or come in.
Heiau: An ancient place of worship. Please be respectful of a heiau on the Hawaiian Islands as these sites are kapu or sacred.
Hula: Our earliest form of communication, where we share stories through dance.
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a: Our state fish, a triggerfish.
Lanai: A patio or balcony.
Lei: A necklace made from flowers, leaves, or shells that’s given as a symbol of affection.
Lua: Not to be confused with a traditional feast, a lua is actually the restroom.
Luau: A celebration and feast. Many luau’s today are geared toward visitors and include a buffet and entertainment.
Mahalo: Thank you.
Makai: Towards the ocean, a directional word. Many visitors head makai or to the beach!
Makana: Gift or present.
Malihini: Newcomer or visitor. If it’s your first visit to Hawaii, you’re a malihini.
Poi: A traditional dish made from taro root, most likely seen on a luau menu.
Pū-pū: Appetizers. Many restaurants will offer pupus that include poke, sushi, seafood, chicken, and more.
Wikiwiki: Quickly. Though most come to our islands to enjoy a relaxed and laid back atmosphere, some things are done wikiwiki or fast.
Hawaiian isn’t learned overnight but recognizing and saying these common phrases should come in handy when traveling to Kauai.