List of English Words of Hawaiian Origin

, Staff Writer
Updated November 21, 2016
English word with Hawaiian origin aloha
    english word with Hawaiian origin aloha
    Sarah8000 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Quite a few words commonly used in the English language are of Hawaiian origin. Since the island of Hawaii has two official languages (English and Hawaiian), it’s not surprising that a number of Hawaiian terms have become part of the English language. Discover some of the most widely used Hawaiian words in English.

Hawaiian Words Used in English

The terms on this Hawaiian words and meanings list are examples of terms from the Hawaiian language that are widely used in English.

  • akamai - clever, sharp, smart, intelligent (Hawaiian slang term)
  • aloha - this has three meanings: hello, goodbye and love
  • awa - bitter tasting root of the kava plant; dried kava root is mixed with water to make a beverage called awa
  • haole - someone who is not Polynesian or native to Hawaii; outsider or foreigner
  • honu - a green sea turtle that is the only reptile native to Hawaii; symbolizes good luck
  • hula - a hawaiian cultural dance also used as a form of storytelling; can be fast or slow; performers can be seated or standing
  • kahuna - a respected person in a position of authority and respect, such as a priest, shaman or other leader
  • kahlua - term for dancing; also used as a gender neutral first name
  • keiki - child, offspring or descendant; also used to describe a plant that is not fully grown
  • lanai - a covered patio, veranda or porch attached to a house or other structure
  • lei - a garland or wreath of flowers
  • luau - a feast of Hawaiian food; typical held outdoors with Hawaiian dancers providing entertainment
  • mahalo - expression of gratitude or appreciation; thank you
  • mahi mahi - very strong; the name of dolphin fish (not the same as a bottlenose dolphin)
  • mano - general term for a shark
  • mumu - a loose garment or dress; typically made using a brightly colored fabric with a floral pattern
  • ohana - extended family
  • ono - tasty, great tasting, delicious, flavorful
  • Pele's hair - volcanic glass fibers; named after Pele, the goddess of volcanoes some believe to have created the Hawaiian islands
  • Pele's tears - solid pieces of lava from a volcano; also named after the goddess Pele
  • poi - popular Hawaiian food made from fermented taro root
  • puka - an opening or hole in an object
  • puka shells - small white shells commonly found on the beach in Hawaii; individual puka shells are strung together to make a puka necklace
  • taboo - from the hawaiian word kapu, which means something that is unacceptable or forbidden
  • tiki - term for Polynesian gods
  • ukulele - a little guitar with four strings
  • wiki - to move quickly or hurry, fast-moving; used in English for easy-to-edit websites

Example Sentences Using Words Associated With Hawaii

Are you wondering how some of these terms might be used by English speakers who aren’t also fluent in Hawaiian? These example sentences can help you get a good idea of how to incorporate these terms into everyday English.

  • Until we meet again, my friend, aloha!
  • If you move to Hawaii from Minnesota, the locals will refer to you as a haole.
  • I am looking forward to practicing my hula dance skills during summer vacation.
  • My bridesmaids will wear colorful leis instead of carrying flowers.
  • I am excited that my graduation party will have a luau theme.
  • Lisa bought me a puka shell necklace when she went to Hawaii. I love to wear it.
  • Steve recently learned how to play the ukulele. He is very good at it.
  • I tried a lot of interesting foods in Hawaii. They were all tasty, but poi is my favorite.
  • The first website I worked on was a wiki site.

Facts About Hawaii

Now that you have a list of English words of Hawaiian origin, maybe you would like more information about Hawaii. Hawaii became a state in the United States of America on August 21, 1959. It is located 2,000 miles from the mainland of the United States. Hawaii is the only state that is a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii's nickname is The Aloha State.

Here is a list of some of the official symbols of Hawaii:

  • bird - Hawaiian goose (nene)
  • dance - hula
  • flower - pua aloalo (kind of hibiscus)
  • gem - black coral
  • insect - Kamehameha butterfly
  • mammal - Hawaiian monk seal
  • marine mammal - humpback whale
  • tree - kukui tree

Hawaiian Island Chain

Hawaii is a part of the Hawaiian Island chain, which is a huge chain of islands stretching over 1,500 miles. The whole archipelago is made up of around 130 islands, with some of them being very small. There are eight main islands. The islands, their nicknames and their official colors are:

  • Hawaii - The Big Island; red
  • Molokai - The Friendly Isle; green
  • Niihau - The Forbidden Isle; white
  • Oahu - The Gathering Place; golden yellow
  • Kauai - The Garden Isle; purple
  • Lanai - The Pineapple Isle; orange
  • Maui - The Valley Isle; pink
  • Kahoolawe - The Target Isle; gray

Tourist Destination

The Hawaiian Islands have a population of around one million people. It is a very popular destination for tourists because of the active and dormant volcanoes, tropical climate, gorgeous beaches, and great waves.

Being isolated, Hawaii has its own brand of culture and language, with influences from North America and Asia. A few things make Hawaii unique:

  • It is the only state that grows coffee.
  • It is totally surrounded by water.
  • It has a royal palace.
  • It is not geographically in North America.
  • It is made up of islands.
  • It does not have a straight line anywhere in its boundaries.
  • Hawaii and Alaska are the only two states that do not border another state.

Exploring the Origins of English Words

Now that you know about some of the words associated with Hawaii that are often used in the English language, you’re probably wondering if any other words in the English are derived from other languages. The answer to that question is yes. It can be really fascinating to explore English words of foreign origin. Explore a list of English words of Japanese origins to start learning more.