When you’re in Hawaii, it’s impossible to go even a day (maybe even an hour) without coming across a Hawaiian word. Whether it’s city names, street names, or just the sprinkling of words that can be found in everyday conversation, ‘olelo Hawai’i is everywhere! Here are some words you might come across during your stay on any of our beautiful islands.
Aloha – Of course, in Hawaii, “aloha” is everywhere—and not just the word! While it’s generally used as a greeting or a farewell, the “aloha spirit” is something you’ll hear about and experience while in Hawaii. This spirit of welcoming, friendliness, and goodwill is a crucial element of Hawaiian culture, and it’s one of the things that makes Hawaii so wonderful!
Mahalo – You’ll see the Hawaiian word for “thank you” everywhere in Hawaii, and hear it as well! From servers to shop clerks, flight attendants to Tour Guides, “mahalo” is the way many people in Hawaii express sincere gratitude.
Mauka and Makai – If you hear these words when asking directions, don’t fret! “Mauka” means “mountain-side” and “Makai” means “sea-side.” So, if the restaurant you’re looking for is “mauka” of the mall, look toward the mountain.
‘Aina – This important word means “land,” and you might see or hear it used in the context of “preserve our ‘aina.” Hawaii residents are very protective of our beautiful natural surroundings, and we work together to keep our ‘aina beautiful.
E komo mai – You’ll hear this phrase at restaurants, hotels, and maybe even on board your airplane. It simply means “Welcome” or “come in!”
‘Ono – One of our favorite Hawaiian words means simply “delicious!” You’ll see this easy Hawaiian word on restaurant signage and menus—sometimes as the awesome Hawaiian-English portmanteau “onolicious!”
In Hawaii, Hawaiian is everywhere, and the language itself has seen an increase in fluent speakers over the last few decades. If you listen closely, you might even hear conversations between some local residents completely in Hawaiian! Of course, the majority of Hawaii’s population isn’t near fluent, but certain words and phrases pepper our dialect and make Hawaii one of the most unique places in the United States!