Before Westerners came to Hawaiʻi, Hawaiians had a strictly oral language. The process of converting our medium of communication to text was unusual to us. But when we did, our language was titled, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, a debatably westernized term that directly translates to “speaking Hawaiian.” This conversion did not only result in a physical form of our language, but also in the loss of some dialect due to the confinement of text.
Despite having our language transcribed in a foreign written form, we still refer to our dialect as an ʻōlelo, a speech. For our ancestors, it was through verbal dialect that our history and genealogy was held. Memorization was a key component to our people and never failed us. We evidently see this through chants of moʻolelo, stories, that could be about three hours long when recited.
Our language consists of 12 letters, resulting in a limited spread of word possibilities. With that being said, we see the same word carry multiple meanings that connect to one another.
This glossary is purposed to define commonly used huaʻōlelo, Hawaiian Words, within our pieces for Hawaiʻi. Please note that these are only basic translations and that some words are not easily translated from ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi to English.
To seek more information on certain huaʻōlelo, please refer to this online dictionary. This site is a compilation of several physical sources, including the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukuʻi, that helps define terms.
Aloha — n. Love, Greetings
ʻĀina — n. Land, Earth
Hōnua — n. Earth, World
Kai — n. Ocean
Kanaka — n. Human beings, Person (usually of Hawaiian descent)
Kiaʻi — n/v. Protector, to Protect
Kuleana — n. Responsibility
Kumulipo — n. Old genealogical story of the creation of Hawaiʻi
Lāhui — n. Government, Community (refers to the sovereign government/state of Hawaiʻi)
Leo — n/v. Voice, Speech
Mālama — n/v. Care, to Care for
Manaʻo — n. Thoughts, Idea, Deeper Meaning, Purpose
Mana — n. Divine energy
Moʻokūʻauhau — n. Genealogy
Moʻolelo — n. Stories, History
ʻŌlelo — n/v. To speak, Language
Poʻe — n. People, Population
Wai — n. Water
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