Neil's Hawaiian Dictionary

Here are some of the Hawaiian words I've encountered in researching and writing Māhū. I've included pronunciation for them, where I thought it was necessary. In some words, you'll see a macron, a short line over the vowel. The macron indicates that you pronounce the vowel a little longer than you might in English. So Māhū would be pronounced Mahhh-huuu.

I've tried to use the correct Hawaiian spelling for words in my books. Sometimes that's not possible; for example, you won't see macrons on the title page of my novels, or in the titles of web pages, because that might be confusing to web surfers or book buyers.

One of the interesting rules about Hawaiian grammar is that every syllable in a Hawaiian word must end in a vowel. I'm sure that this, plus the fact that there are only fourteen letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, was a real challenge to the first missionaries, who sought to translate the Bible into the native language. By using the next available letter, and adding vowels to the ends of syllables, "Merry Christmas" became "Mele Kalikimaka." Kimo's name is a translation of James.

Ahi
ahi
Yellowfin tuna

Aihue

Robbery

'āina

Land, earth

akamai

Smart, intelligent

akua lele

Devil, spirit or ghost, often on an evil mission. Akua by itself, when capitalized, means God, as in aloha ke Akua, God is love. Thanks to Keli’i Lindo for this correction!

He also points out that the most common word for devil is kepolo-- which looks to me like a Hawaiianization of the English word, one that the missionaries translated.


'alae
mudhen
Mud hen

ali'i
alii
Chief, ruler or royal monarch

Aloha kākou

May there be peace and friendship between us (to more than one person)

Aloha kāua

May there be peace and friendship between us (to more than one person)

Aloha nui oe

May you be greatly loved

brah

Slang for "brother." Some Hawaiians also use the term "brudda."

chiisai chimpo

Japanese slang used to indicate that a man's genitalia are lacking in size. Thanks to author Deborah Turrell Atkinson for this one!

Ewa 

A town west of Honolulu, used to indicate that direction.

Halau

halau
A longhouse, used for canoes or for hula instruction. Loosely, a hula school.

Hanai

Hawai'ian adoption. A child is reared, educated, and loved by someone other than natural parents, usually grandparents or other relatives.

Hanai was permanent; birth parents could not reclaim their child except in the event of death or serious incapacity of the adoptive parents. The hanai status of a child was conferred when birth parents said to the hanai parents, "Nau ke keiki kukae a na'au," or "I give this child, intestines, contents and all." (Intellect, emotion, and intuition were often associated with the stomach and intestines.)

A hanai child was reared as one's own by his/her adoptive family, but also "knew and was usually visited by his natural parents." Hanai families and birth parents kept open communication, worked together, and often conferred over the child's welfare. Birth parents of a hanai child were permitted and encouraged to maintain a connection with their child.


Haole 

A white person.

Hapa
hapa man
hapa woman
Literally, half, a part or a portion. Often used with haole, as in "hapa haole," a person who is half white. This term is also used to refer to a genre of music that arose when Caucasian composers, who fell in love with the tropical romance of the islands, wrote about Hawaii in English.

Hinahina

hinahina

An air plant, also called the silversword or Spanish moss, growing on tree branches and in hanging baskets.

Hoana e ho'eha

Assault and battery

Holoholo

Traveling

Hopu

Arrest

Hōlona

A novice or beginner.

Ho'omāka'i

To act as a policeman; to appoint an investigator.

Hui

Literally, incorporated, united or joined. Used as a business term to mean a company or organization.

Hula
hula
The Hawai'ian traditional dance. There are two types: the hula kahiko, the ancient hula, and the hula 'auana, the more modern version.

Ilima

ilima

The flower of O'ahu. According to my correspondent Lynn Smith-Roberts, who like Kimo is a Hawaii native and Punahou graduate, "the Ilima was only worn by royalty in the old days, and those orange crepe paper leis you can buy in shops for luaus, etc. (At least you used to be able to buy them - now they come in all kinds of colors.) are actually fake Ilima leis."

Imu

An underground oven, often used to cook an entire pig for a luau.

Kahako

The macron, a line used over certain vowels to indicate that you stress that vowel and hold it a little longer when pronouncing it. The macron is used twice in Māhū.

Kahuna

A priest, a minister, or an expert in any profession.

Kalaima

Crime

Kalo
taro
Taro

Kālua

Baked in an in-ground oven, like an imu. Used as kalua pig.

Kāne 

kane

Man. Used often on restroom doors.

Keiki

Child.

Kiawe

kiawe

A tall, spreading tree.

Koa

koa

A rare type of Hawai'ian wood, sometimes used for furniture. As an adjective, it can mean brave or fearless; as a noun it can mean soldier.

Kolohe

Mischievious, naughty.

Kope
kope
Coffee. Since there is no F in the Hawai'ian alphabet, the P is substituted.

Kukini

Runner or messenger

Kupuna

Grandparent or ancestor.

Ku'uipo

Sweetheart, lover.

Lolo

Crazy.

Longboard

The original type of Hawai'ian surfboard, best for novices because of its stability.

Luna

Boss.

Luna maka'i

Chief of Police

Mahalo

Thank you. Seen on the lid of trash cans.

Māhū 

Homosexual.

Makai

Toward the ocean. Used as a directional term, particularly in Honolulu.

Māka'i

As a noun, a police officer or guard. As a verb, to police, inspect or spy.

Māka'ikiu

A detective. Literally, the term means "spying police."

Māka'i koa

Military police

Māka'i nui

Sheriff.

Māka'i po

Night watchman.

Mākakiu

As a noun, a spy or detective; as a verb, watchful or spying.

Malasada

malasada

A type of Portuguese donut, popular in Hawai'i.

Malihini

A stranger or newcomer to the islands.

Mana

Power.

Manuahi

Illegitimate child.

Mauka

Toward the mountains. Used as a directional term, particularly in Honolulu.

Moke

A hoodlum.

Mo'opuna

Grandchild.

Ni hau ma

Chinese greeting.

Ohua

Literally, servants or passengers. A street in Waikīkī.

Okina

The glottal stop, represented by the reverse apostrophe. Used to indicate the separate pronunciation of two vowels next to each other, as in Kimo's last name, Kanapa'aka.

Ono

Delicious

Pahu Hula

pahu

A kind of drum used in Hawai'ian chants and other music.

Pākē 

A Chinese person.

Palapala hopu

Arrest warrant

Pepehi kanaka

Murder

Pohihihi

Mystery

Paniolo
paniolo

A Hawai'ian cowboy. The first cowboys to come to Hawai'i were from Spain; this term is a Hawai'ian version of Espanol. Kimo meets up with a paniolo in a short story in Cleis's anthology Cowboys: Gay Erotic Tales.

Pau

Finished, done.

Pikake 

pikake Pikake, also called Arabian Jasmine, is a shrub with small, fragrant white flowers, often used in leis. There's a Hapa song called Lei Pikake. This picture shows a piece of ivory in the shape of a pikake flower, from a set of earrings.
lei

A lei made of pikake and maile. Lynn Smith-Roberts, who supplied these pictures, wrote me that she wore a similar lei at her wedding. "The little white flowers are pikake, and the green leaves are maile. [pron. "my-lee"] When we were married, the leis were taken apart and I wore the white one, my husband the green one."

Plumeria



The plumeria is another lovely tropical flower, often seen in leis. Lynn Smith-Roberts wrote me that "The most common plumeria is yellow and white - the Singapore. It's the hardiest and will last as a lei longer, when body heat will curl and brown lesser varieties."

Pau

Finished, done.

Pono

Goodness, morality. What is right or correct.

Pua

Flower. Also a female given name. Kimo has an Aunt Pua.

Pua'a

Pig.

Punahou

A private school in Honolulu.

Pu'uwai

Heart.

Saimin

A Japanese noodle soup.

Shaka



Hold the hand out, pressing the third and fourth fingers toward the palm. A gesture of greeting, good luck, etc.

Tecoma

tecoma

A popular island tree with a profusion of pink flowers.

Tūtū

Grandparent, or any close relative of a grandparent's generation. Sometimes spelled kūkū.

Ule

Penis.

Wahine 

A woman, lady, wife, female relative-- or the queen in a deck of cards.

Waipahē

Kind, gentlemanly.