You are on page 1of 13

Basic Hawaiian Language Lessons

Nâ Ha`awina o Ka `Ike Kumu o Ka `Ôlelo Hawai`i

~ Aunty D: ||

Basic Hawaiian Language Workshop at the The Southern California `Ukulele Festival

There is only a limited amount of knowledge that one can impart at a workshop. The
following lessons are presented with extended learning aids, including links to enhance and
further your Hawaiian language learning experience:

I. Greetings :: Nâ Aloha:

Phonetic pronunciation:
Translation into English:
Correct: [ah loh' hah]
Aloha! alo = presence
Incorrect: [ah LOH' hah!]
hâ = (Divine) breath
[ah low hah!] [ah LOH
More than a greeting, it is a blessing.
Aloha to all of us!
Aloha kâkou! [ah loh' hah KAH' kou!]
(More than two of us)
Aloha kâua! [ah loh' hah KAH oo-(w)ah!] Aloha to you and me! (Two of us)
Aloha e (Inoa)! [ah loh' hah-(y)eh (Inoa)!] Aloha to (Name)!
Hûi [HOO'-(w)ee!] Halloo! Yoo hoo!
[ah loh' hah-AH hoo'-(w)ee
Aloha â hui hou! Aloha until (we) meet again.

To further your learning:

More Hawaiian greetings - The Meaning of Aloha - The Aloha Spirit
More Hawaiian greetings and sentiments

II. A Brief History :: He Mo`olelo Pôkole

Origins: ? - Marquesas / Tahiti ---> Hawai`i. Post contact: Hawaiian population was
decimated from 1,000,000 to 40,000. Missionaries from New England converted Hawaiian
into a written language. Hawaiians soon became the most literate in the world; at one time, up
to 90% of the Hawaiian population read and wrote their once oral-only language.

Over time, English usage dominated and the Hawaiian language receded; 25 years ago, the
number of native Hawaiian speakers was down to ~2000. Like the nênê, the endangered
Hawaiian goose, the Hawaiian language was on the brink of extinction. Pidgin (a.k.a. Hawai`i
Creole English), an amalgam of Hawaiian, English, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and
Portuguese words, among others, has helped to preserve its words, as well as its grammatical
and intonation patterns. In the 1980's, the Hawaiian language (a.k.a. ka `ôlelo Hawai`i) was
revived with the Hawaiian Renaissance.

Today, there are more than 10,000 speakers and the number is growing. Hawaiian and English
are now the two official languages of Hawai`i.

`O Ka `Ōlelo Ke Ka`ā; O Ka Mauli"

"Language is the fiber that binds us to our cultural identity"

We honor our kûpuna by heeding them: "If you kill the language, you kill the culture." Keep
the culture alive by learning Hawaiian. It is never too late.

E ola mau ka `ôlelo Hawai`i!

[eh-(y)oh lah mau kah OH leh loh hah vai ee!"
May the Hawaiian language live on!

To enhance your learning:

Why Learn Hawaiian? 20 Pono Reasons
He Kono - An Invitation to Give Back to Hawai`i, Hawaiian Culture, and Aloha

III. Hawaiian Words of Wisdom :: Ka `Ôlelo No`eau: On learning

[NAH' NAH' kah mah' kah]

Nânâ ka maka
[hoh oh loh' heh kah peh pei- Observe with the eyes
Ho`olohe ka pepeiao
(y)ao'] Listen with the ears
Pa`a ka waha
[pah' ah kah vah' hah] Shut the mouth

Thus one learns.

To further your learning:

Nâ `Ôlelo No`eau: Hawaiian Words of Wisdom / Proverbs
Hawaiian Proverbs and Wise Sayings for Seniors

IV. Hawaiian Alphabet :: Ka Pî`âpâ Hawai`i:

The Hawaiian alphabet uses 12 Roman letters ( a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w),

five (5) Roman letters (a, e, i, o, u) with a diacritical mark called a kahakô,
and a diacritical mark called `okina.
Number of letters in the Hawaiian alphabet: 10 vowels + 8 consonants = 18
letters. Here's the breakdown:

10 Hawaiian Vowels:

5 vowels:
a e i o u
[pronounced: ah eh ee oh oo]

5 vowels with kahakô:

â ê î ô û
[pronounced with elongated sounds: AH EH EE OH OO]

What's a kahakô?

(kaha = mark) + ( kô = elongate).

It is a diacritical mark that is a horizontal line over a vowel to signify elongation

of its sound. Instead of one beat of sound, give it two. In English, this mark is
called the macron.

Because â ê î ô û are recognized as vowels in addition to a e i o u, there are

ten (10) vowels in the Hawaiian language.

8 Hawaiian Consonants:

h, k, l, m, n, p, w, `
[pronounced: heh, peh, keh, lah, moo, noo, peh, veh, `oh kee nah]

What's an `okina?

(`oki = cut) + na (a suffix that makes a word a noun).

It is a diacritical mark that looks like " a tiny "6" with the hole filled in." Known
in English as a "glottal stop," it signifies a break in the breath, as in "oh-oh."

Because `okina is recognized as a consonant, in and of its self, there are eight (8)
consonants in the Hawaiian language.
Thus, there are 18 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, and NOT the frequently erroneously
reported 12 letters.
Here is a graphic that depicts the exact representations of the kahakô and the `okina:
Graphic, courtesy of The Royal Hawaiian Band
Unfortunately, to date, the Internet does not support the faithful rendering of these diacritical
marks, although efforts to rectify this situation are underway. The closest renderings of the
diacritical marks necessary for the proper pronunciation, spelling, and comprehension of
Hawaiian words employ the caret (^) to represent the kahakô and the backward quote mark
(`) to represent the `okina, as used on this page.
Diacritical marks are important to pronunciation. Use them where they are required.
You CAN make them on your word-processor. Here's how.
To further your learning:
Ka Pî`âpâ Hawai`i :: The Hawaiian Alphabet
Why is Hawaii spelled Hawai`i?
A List of Common Mispronunciations of Hawaiian Words
Common Mispronunciations of Hawaiian Place Names
V. Colors & Numbers :: Nâ Waiho`olu`u & Nâ Huahelu:
Learn to sing the "color song":

`Ula`ula, melemele, poni, polû, `ele`ele

Phonetic pronunciation:
[ooh' lah ooh' lah, meh' leh meh' leh, poh' nee, poh LOO', eh' leh eh' leh]
Red, yellow, purple, blue, black

`Alani, `âkala, ke`oke`o, `âhinahina, `ôma`oma`o

Phonetic pronunciation:
[ah lah' nee, AH kah' lah, keh' oh keh' oh, AH hee nah hee' nah, OH' mah' oh mah' oh]
Translation: Orange, pink, white, gray, green
Further your learning:
Colors :: Nâ Waiho`olu`u
More on Colors
Learn to count in Hawaiian:

0 =`ole, 1= ho`okahi, 2 = `elua, 3 = `ekolu, 4 = `ehâ, 5 = `elima, 6 = `eono, 7 = `ehiku, 8

= `ewalu, 9 = `eiwa, 10 = `umi

Phonetic pronunciation:
[oh' leh, hoh oh kah' hee, eh loo-(w)ah, eh koh' loo, eh HAH', eh lee' mah, eh-(w)oh noh,
eh hee' koo, eh vah loo, ei' vah, oo' mee]
Further your learning:
Numbers :: Nâ Huahelu
More on Numbers

VI. Pronunciation :: Ka Hopuna:

Uncorrected, gross mispronunciations go mainstream and become virtually impossible to
correct. Check out these gross mispronunciations of common Japanese words by English

Words: karaoke || sake || karate

Mispronunciations: "carry oh' key" || "sack' kee" || "kah rah' tee"
Actual pronunciation: [ kah rah' oh keh] || [sah keh] || [kah rah teh']

Learn to pronounce the words correctly. Hawaiian is too beautiful for it to be trashed with
mispronunciations which distort and obscure the intended meanings.
Rules of Thumb:

• All letters are sounded. There are NO silent letters in Hawaiian.

• Vowels are sounded separately EXCEPT when two vowels are next to each other and
the sound is then blended as diphthongs.
• Stress the "next-to-the-last" sound. Sounds with kahakô and diphthongs are

"The Nuts and Bolts" of Pronunciating Hawaiian Words:

Diphthong [dip' thong] = a blended sound from two vowels in a row, as in "ou" in house or
"oi" in noise. In Hawaiian the two vowels are not so tightly joined as in English and BOTH
must be "completely executed." The first vowel of the blended pair is stressed more.
Diphthongs: Sounds like: Examples:
ai "i" in ice Kai = Sea water
ae I or eye Mae`ole = Never-fading
"ow" in how Maoli = True
but without a nasal twang Kaona = Hidden Meaning
"ou" in house or out
au Au = I, I am
but without a nasal twang
ei "ei" in chow mein or in eight Lei = Garland
eu "eh leh-(y)oo'" `Eleu = Lively
iu Wêkiu = Topmost
similar to "ew" in few
oe oh-(w)eh `Oe = You
oi "oi" in voice Poi = Hawaiian staple
ou "ow" in bowl Kou = Your
ui "oo-(w)ee" in gooey Hui = Together, team, chorus

• "W" sounds like "V" or "W" when it starts a word or follows "a".
Examples: Welina! [weh lee' nah] or [veh lee' nah] = Greeting;
Hawai`i [hah wai' ee] or [hah vai' ee]
• "W" sounds like "V" when it follows "e" or "i. ". Mnemonic:"Vei"
Examples: iwi [ee' vee] = bone; `Ewa [eh' vah]
• "W" sounds like "W" when it follows "o" or "u." Mnemonic: "Wou"
Examples: wôwô [WOH WOH] = roar; kûwili [KOO wee' lee] = spin

Y-Glides and W-Glides:

These glide sounds are automatically produced with certain vowel combinations. Hawaiian is
not spoken in staccato fashion. When two vowels are next to each other (in the same word
and with adjacent words), smooth out the sounds with these glides.
W-glides: Y-glides:
Maui [ Mau'-(w)ee] `O ia [oi'-(y)ah] : he, she, it; he is, she is, it is
`oe [oh-(w)eh' ] : you `iâia [ee-(Y)AH'-(y)ah] : to him, to her
Auê [ au-(W)EH'! ] : Oh no! Darn! heiau [hei'-(y)au'] : place of worship, rock shrine
E Hawai`i Aloha ê
lauoho [lau-(w)oh' hoh] : hair
[eh hah vai' ee-(y)ah loh' hah-(Y)EH]
Practice saying the eight major Hawaiian islands correctly:
Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lâna`i, Kaho`olawe, Maui, Hawai`i.
Pronounced: [nee ee hau'], [kau-(w)ah' ee], oh ah' hoo], [moh loh kah' ee], [LAH' nah ee],
[kah hoh oh lah' veh], [mau'-(w)ee], [hah vai' ee] or [hah wai' ee].

Honolulu is pronounced [hoh noh loo' loo].

Practice singing this beloved Hawaiian song: HAWAI`I ALOHA.

• Listen: The Kawaiahao Church Choir

VII: Simple Sentences :: Adjective + Noun/Pronoun Pattern
As with the Spanish language, the adjective (word that describes) come before the noun (the
subject). But first, here are some words to help you begin to speak in a sentence.
Pronouns / Proper noun:
kâua [KAH-oo-(w)ah : we, as in "you and I"
au [ Mau'- (w)ee] : I, I am
kâkou [KAH' kou] : we, as in "all of us"
`olua [oh loo-(w)ah : you, as in "you two"
`oe [oh- (w)eh' ] : you, you are
`oukou [ou kou'] : you, as in "all of you"
lâua [LAH' kou] : they, as in "two of them"
`o ia [oi'-(y)ah ] : he or she or it, he or she or place of worship, rock shrine
it is lâkou [LAH' kou] : they, as in "all of them"
place of worship, rock shrine
`o ("So-and-so") : "So-and-so" is Example: Pôloli `o Pila. : Bill is hungry.
maika`i [mai kah' ee] : good anuanu [ah' noo-(w) ah' noo] : cold
kolohe [koh loh' heh] : naughty, rascal wela [veh' lah] : hot
`ino [ee' noh] : bad, evil
mahana [mah hah' nah] : warm
`eleu [eh leh-(y)oo] : energetic, lively `olu`olu [oh' loo oh' loo] : comfortably cool,
mâluhiluhi [MAH' loo hee loo hee] : tired pleasant

mâlie [MAH' lee-(y)eh] : calm ola [oh' lah] : healthy

huhû [hoo HOO'] : angry, ticked off ma`i [mah' ee] : sick
nui [noo-(w)ee] : big pôloli [POH' loh lee] : hungry
li`ili`i [lee' ee lee' ee] : little mâ`ona [MAH' oh nah] : full (with food)

ikaika [ee kai' kah] : strong makewai [mah keh vai'] : thirsty
nâwaliwali [NAH vah lee vah lee] : weak kena [keh' nah] : quenched
nani [nah' nee] : pretty
nohea [noh heh-(y)ah] : handsome akamai [ah kah mai'] : smart
pupuka [poo poo' kah] : ugly hûpô [HOO' POH'] : stupid

hau`oli [hau oh' lee] : happy pono [poh' noh] : proper, righteous, balanced
kaumaha [kau mah' hah] : sad pupule [poo poo' leh] : crazy, insane

hoihoi [hoi' hoi'] : interesting onaona [oh nao' nah] ; fragrant

manakâ [mah nah KAH'] : bored, hauna [hau' nah] : smelly, stinky
* A very useful word: `ole [oh' leh] : not pa`ahana [pah ah hah' nah] : industrious,
Put `ole after the adjective to negate it: moloâ [moh loh-(W)AH] : lazy

Examples: miki`oi [mee kee oi'] : neat, precise

maika`i `ole : not good kâpulu [KAH' poo loo] : careless, slovenly
`ino `ole : not evil
Using the sentence pattern of adjective + noun/pronoun:
Pôloli au. I am hungry.
Nani `oe. You are beautiful.
Maika`i `o ia. He/She is good.
Makewai `o Pila. Pila is thirsty.

Moloâ `ole lâkou. They are not lazy.

VII: Commonly used Hawaiian words and expressions:

Hawaiian Word List
(HAWAIIAN): (Pronunciation): (ENGLISH):
`ae [ae] Yes
`a`ole [ah oh' leh] No
pela paha [peh lah pah' hah] Maybe
friend; friendly; to become a
aikâne [ai KAH' neh]
`âina [ai' nah] land; overall environment
God, usually referred to as Ke
[ah koo'-(w)ah] [ee-(y)eh' Akua
soo] [krees' toh] Jesus
ali`i [ah lee' ee] chiefly class; royalty
[ah loh' hah vau-(y)ee
Aloha au iâ `oe. I love you.
YAH' oh-(w)eh]
[ah oh' leh pee lee keh'
`A`ole pilikia. No trouble. You're welcome.
`au`au [au au] to bathe
Auê! [au-(W)EH'!] Oh no! Alas! Oops!
`aumakua [au mah koo'-(w)ah] guardian spirit, ancestor
nâ `aumâkua [NAH au MAH koo-(w)ah guardian spirits, ancestors
E kala mai. [eh kah' lah mai] Excuse me. Forgive me.
[eh MAH lah' mah poh'
E mâlama pono. Take care.
E `olu`olu. [eh oh' loo oh' loo] Please.
E komo mai! [eh koh' moh mai!] Welcome! Literally, Come In!
[hah-(y)ee' nah-(y)ee- "To tell the refrain." Sung at the
Haina iâ mai ana ka
(Y)AH' mai-(y)ah' nah end of most traditional Hawaiian
kah poo-(w)ah' nah] songs.
hale [hah' leh] house, home, building
hula school; originally, canoe
hâlau [HAH' lau]
Hana hou! [hah' nah hou!] Encore! Do it again!
hânai [HAH' nai] adopted, Hawaiian style
haole [hao' leh] Caucasian
part, usually refers to mixed
hapa [hah' pah]
hâpai [HAH' pai] pregnant; to carry
haumana [hau mah' nah] student
nâ haumâna [NAH hau MAH' nah] students
hauna [hau' nah] smelly, stinky
[hau oh' lee LAH HAH
Hau`oli Lâ Hânau! Happy Birthday!
Hiki! [hee' kee!] Can do! Sure! All right! Okay!
Hiki nô! [hee' kee NOH'!] (Hiki with more emphasis)
[hau oh' lee mah kah hee'
Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year!
kee hou !]
Hô! [HOH!] Wow!
hô`ike [HOH' ee keh] to show, exhibit; exhibition
ho`olaule`a [hoh oh lau leh' ah] celebration
Ho`omaika`i! [hoh oh mai kah' ee!] Congratulations!
hula `auana [hoo' lah au-(w)ah' nah] modern hula
hula kahiko [hoo' lah kah hee' koh] ancient hula
huli [hoo' lee] turn, reverse; to turn over
`îlio [EE lee'-(y)oh] dog
ka [kah] the
ke [keh]
nâ [NAH] The word "the" is far more
frequently used in Hawaiian than
ke keiki : the child in English. Abstract words are
nâ keiki : the children preceded by "the", as in, ke Aloha.

Rules of Thumb:
Use ka for words that begin with
a, e, o, k, and `okina.

Use ke for all other letters.

Use nâ to pluralize, ahead of the

noun. Do not add a "s" to pluralize
Hawaiian words. Correct: one lei,
two lei, four lei...
ka`a [kah' ah] car
kâlâ [KAH' LAH'] money
kama`âina [kah mah AI' nah] native, native-born, Hawai`i born.
indigenous person; any
kanaka maoli [kah nah' kah mao' lee] descendant of those persons who
lived in Hawai`i prior to 1778
kâne [KAH' neh] man, male, husband, Mr.
kani = sound, ka = the, pila =
Kanikapila! [kah nee kah pee' lah!] stringed instrument. Figuratively,
"Let's play music!"
kaona [kau' nah] hidden/deeper meaning of songs
taboo, secret, off limits, don't
kapu [kah' poo]
kêia [KEH'-(y)ee-(y)ah] this
kênâ [KEH' NAH] that (nearby)
kêlâ [KEH' LAH] that (over there)
keiki [kei' kee] child
nâ keiki [NAH kei' kee] children
keiki o ka `âina [kei' kee oh kah AI' nah] children of the land, island-born
kî hô`alu [KEE HOH' ah loo] slack key guitar
kîkâ [KEE' KAH] guitar
kôkua [KOH' koo-(w)ah] help, aid, assistance
leeward; hot winds that blow from
kona [koh' nah]
the lee side against the trades
candlenut tree; its nuts are used
kukui [koo kui']
for lei
Hush! Quiet! (Hâmau! is more
Kulikuli! [koo' lee koo' lee!]
kumu [koo' moo] teacher
kupuna [koo poo' nah] elder
nâ kûpuna [NAH KOO poo nah] elders
ku`u ipo [koo' oo-(w)ee' poh] my sweetheart
Lawa! [lah' vah] Enough!
Le`a le`a! [eh leh' ah leh' ah !] Have fun!
lânai [LAH' nai] porch, veranda, patio
lani [lah' nee] heaven; heavenly; sky; spiritual
lauhala [lau hah' lah] leaves from the hala (pandanus)
tree, used for weaving
pit or hole that has a bottom.
lua [loo-(w)ah]
Colloquial term for toilet.
The proper words that mean
bathroom is lumi ho`opaupilikia,
which literally means "room to
end your trouble").
lû`au [LOO' au] Hawaiian feast
mahalo [mah hah' loh] thank you
mâhû [MAH' HOO'] gay person
mâkaukau [MAH' kau kau] ready
make [mah' keh] dead
makuahine [mah koo-(w)ah hee' neh] mother
[mah koo-(w)ah KAH'
makuakâne father
makule [mah koo' leh] old, of people; aged; elderly
newcomer to Hawai`i, tourist,
malihini [mah lee hee' nee]
malo [mah' loh] loincloth
mana [mah' nah] spiritual power
manu [mah' noo] bird
ma uka [mau' kah] toward the mountains
ma kai [mah kai'] toward the sea
mele [meh' leh] song
[meh' leh kah lee kee mah'
Mele Kalikimaka! Merry Christmas!
industrious, diminutive
menehune [meh neh hoo' neh]
indigenous people of yore
to cause to lie down; to hush or
moemoe [moe moe']
put to sleep
moloâ [moh loh-(W)AH'] lazy
momona [moh moh' nah] sweet, as in fruit
mu`umu`u [moo' oo moo' oo] Hawaiian-style dress
nîele [NEE'-(y)eh leh] nosey, inquisitive
nui [noo'-(w)ee] big; lots
`ohana [oh hah' nah] family
`ôkole [OH koh' leh] anus, specifically the orifice
(opening); derriere
`Elemu is more polite.

oli [oh' lee] chant

`ono [oh' noh] delicious
`ôpû [OH' POO] stomach, belly
[oh vai kou-(w)ee noh'-
`O wai kou inoa? What's your name?
[oh Name koh' oo-(w)ee
`O Name ko`u inoa. Name is my name.
pakalôlô [pah kah LOH' LOH] marijuana, "pot," "grass"
Pâkê [PAH' KEH] Chinese
pali [pah' lee] cliff; precipice
paniolo [pah nee-(y) oh' loh] Hawaiian cowboy
papa [pah' pah] class
pâpale [PAH' pah leh] hat, cap, head covering
pau [pau] done, finished
pau hana [pau hah' nah] finish work; "work is done"
Pehea `oe? [peh heh-(y)ah oe?] How are you?
Maika`i nô. [mai kah' ee NOH] Very well.
A `o `oe? [ah oh oe?] And you?
navel, umbilical cord, genitals;
piko [pee' koh]
Hawaiian staple from pounded
poi [poi] cooked taro (kalo) root, forming a
Appetizer made of cubed raw fish
in a marinade of kukui nut-sea salt
poke [poh' keh]
relish with chili peppers and
seaweed (limu)
Good luck! Best wishes!
Pômaikai! [POH' mai kah' ee]
pôpoki [POH' poh kee] cat
pua [poo'-(w)ah flower
puka [poo' kah] hole, as in puka shells
pule [poo' leh] pray, prayer
hors d`oeuvre, finger food,
pûpû [POO' POO']
appetizer; sea/land shells
Tsâ! / Cha! / Kâ! [TSA!] / [cha!] / [kah!] Darn! Drat! Shucks! Oh no!
tûtû [TOO' TOO] Grandma; affectionate term for
old people--relatives or friends--of
the grandparent generation
`uku [oo' koo] Head louse; flea
`uku= flea + lele = jumping
Literally, "jumping flea"
`ukulele [oo koo leh' leh]
It is NOT spelled `iukuleili !
wahine [wah hee' neh] woman, female, wife, Mrs.
Hurry up! Quickly! To hurry up,
Wikiwiki! [wee' kee wee' kee]
very quick.

Aloha â hui hou!