Do Hawaiians really say aloha

9 Hawaiian words and their meanings you should know

Hey there,

how nice that you are here!

It is incredibly pleasant to listen to someone speak Hawaiian. If I had to describe what it feels like to hear this language, I would say: It feels like cutting through a soft block of butter with a knife; like stepping into a warm, foamy, steamy bath after a stressful day; It's like receiving a long, warm, cozy hug.

The words ooze with meaning, symbolism, grace and love.

They express the identity of the Hawaiians, their culture and their history. They keep traditions alive and make memories bloom.

The Hawaiian language, like many plant and animal species endemic to Hawaii, is threatened with extinction. As a tourist, you can help prevent this from happening. And it's really very simple: learn some Hawaiian words and their meanings and try to incorporate them into your conversations with locals during your stay.

With this article I would like to give you a little insight into the language and first of all show you 9 Hawaiian expressions that I personally like very much.

The following translations of the words are all from the "Hawaiian Dictionary" by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert from 1986. I then translated the English words into German.

Here are 8 words and 1 sentence you should know when visiting Hawai'i:

1. Mahalo

Mahalo means “thank you, gratitude; thank you “but it also stands for recognition, praise and appreciation. If you are in Hawai’i you can use this word as you use “thank you” in German.

2. ‘Ohana

‘Ohana means “family, acquaintances, circle of friends; be related to". However, it closes ‘Ohana all people who mean something to you and are not limited to consanguinity.

3. Kama’āina

The word kama’āina cannot be translated into German easily because there is no real translation. It is made up of two shorter words:

1. kama - what "child" means


2. ‘Āina - what "country" means.

One could kama’āina so translate as "child of the country". Today, all Hawaiian residents, with or without Hawaiian roots, are called kama’āina designated.

4. Kanaka

On the other hand, with kanaka only meant the people whose ancestors were the native Hawaiians. Kanaka can also be translated quite generally as "human being, man, individual or person".

5. Haole

If you go to Hawai’i, then you are a haole. You are (most likely) not of Hawaiian descent and you are not a Hawaiian citizen either. This term is generally used to refer to “white people” or people of Caucasian ethnicity. This also includes Americans or British. This explicit mention of Americans and Englishmen (or "Englishmen" in English) could go back to the colonization of Hawaii by American and European missionaries and business people in the early 19th century.

The word is also used to describe something that is foreign and not native, but introduced.

6. Mana

Mana also has no clear translation, but has to be explained with a somewhat longer explanation.

With mana describes a supernatural force or divine force. It's about energy and not about physical, muscular strength. In the Hawaiian religion, it is believed that in every object and person and even in some places mana plugged.

7. Mālama

Mālama can be translated more easily. It means: "to take care of something, to care, to preserve, to protect, to save, to respect".

This word can also be found in some other idioms, for example:

  • Mālama ‘āina - which means: "Respect the country."
  • Mālama i ke kai - which means: "Respect the ocean."
  • Mālama i ke kai, a mālama ke kai ia ‘o - which means something like: "Take care of the ocean and the ocean will take care of you."

I like this word very much because it represents the foundation of Hawaiian culture: caring for, caring for and feeling responsible for others and the environment.

8. Ua Mau, ke Ea o ka ‘Āina i ka Pono

This phrase is the state motto of Hawai’i.

The translation of this sentence was difficult for the linguists, because many Hawaiian words can be interpreted differently depending on the context. However, the following translation is used particularly often:

"The life of the land is preserved by righteousness."

He sings this sentence in the song "Hawai’i 78" by Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole. The song is about the changes Hawai’i has seen since it was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778.

9. Aloha

You've probably been waiting for: aloha. World-famous and often used, but far too little is lived what aloha actually means.

Aloha doesn’t just mean “hello” and “bye”. The meaning of this ubiquitous term goes far, very far, beyond.

Aloha can be translated, but the real meaning is aloha to feel, to live and to spread.

Here is the translation as found in Pukui and Elbert's dictionary above:

“Love, Affection, Understanding, Compassion, Forbearance, Mercy, Sympathy, Grace; to love, to love; be friendly; Hello! Bye! Take care!"

In fact, there is a law in Hawai’i that suggests treating yourself and others with respect and love. It is called "Aloha Spirit Law"(Chapter 5, Sections §5-7.5 Hawai’i Revised Statutes since 1986).

In this law, ALOHA is described as an acronym.

A - akahai: means kindness, expressed through tenderness

L - lokahi: means togetherness, expressed through harmony

O - oluolu: means sociability, expressed through pleasantness

H - Haahaa: means modesty expressed through frugality

A - Ahonui: means patience expressed through perseverance

Granted, the German translation sounds a bit cumbersome - but I think you understand what it's about.

The Hawaii Spirit Law can be seen as a guide for one's own life. Just imagine what it would be like if everyone lived according to this "law". Then we would live in a world where everyone pays attention to everyone, everyone respects everyone and does so without being kind, without expecting anything in return.

Sounds too good to be true?

I would like to tell you three little anecdotes from my stay in Hawaii to make it clear to you that every little thing, every kind of attention and friendliness towards others is already there aloha means:

When I was on Kaua’i I spent a day in Hanalei on the North Shore. To get there and back again, I took the bus. You have to pay for the bus appropriately with cash and put the bills in a small box. So you don't get any change.

As my beautiful day draws to a close, I set off and looked for a bus stop. There I noticed that I didn't have the right change. I had a $ 20 bill, but the bus was only $ 2 (or so).

“No problem,” I thought, “I'll walk to this boutique and ask if they can change me.” When I got to the store, I described my situation, but unfortunately the young woman didn't have the right bills in the till to give me that To change money. Almost resignedly, I hear her say: “But here, I still have $ 2 in my wallet. Take it here. "

And I was perplexed. The dear young woman simply gives me money without knowing me, without expecting anything from me, without consideration, unconditionally.

But that's not the end of the story.

I stood at the bus stop again and wait for the bus, which is late. But that didn't bother me, I was on vacation and I know that the clock ticks a little differently on islands. In addition, in Hawai’i you learn pretty quickly to simply be satisfied and enjoy the moment. In the end the bus arrived and I got on, but a little relieved - after all, I wanted to go back to the hostel in Kapa’a. I paid the fee and then the driver asked me where I would like to go and I told him. The driver replied: “This bus is no longer a regular bus, today [on Sundays] the buses run on a different schedule. The last bus to Kapa’a left a few hours ago. I'm picking up a soccer team. I'll take you to Kapa’a, where you can get off. "

And again I was perplexed. I couldn't believe how much kindness I have experienced in the past couple of hours. First, a dear woman gives me money for the bus, then the bus driver stops at the bus stop, although he didn't have to because he saw a young woman with a backpack standing there (probably as if she was there and not picked up ... 😊).

It was magical, really magical.

In fact, these weren't the only magical ones aloha Moments that I experienced. Here's another short story:

After the end of a lū’au, it was already dark, people flocked to the exits to find their way to their bus or car. I came by bike myself. The organizers of the lū’au watched me, came up to me and asked: “Are you on your bike? It's already dark and we don't want you to ride your bike home on your own. You can take this bus driver to Kapa’a [he pointed to a friendly smiling Hawaiian] and we will load your bike into the hold. Come along."

As you can imagine, I was once again very perplexed and enchanted.

Of course, I didn't have to pay anything for this transport.

As you can see, in Hawai’i people take care of each other. You take responsibility, are attentive and friendly. Regardless of whether you belong to family and friends or not. Because all people are ’ohana.

I hope so much that you too aloha experience up close. And I especially wish that you aloha give. That you give a lot more than you take. Show your respect, your appreciation and develop a deep interest in Hawaiian culture, people, animals, plants and the ocean; be attentive, mindful and be grateful.

It's easy.

Be kind and love nature,