Hawaii is a wonderful mixing bowl of different cultures and no where is this more noticeable than in the local Hawaiian slang that you hear when visiting the islands.
The long history of immigration and ethnic diversity brought a mixture of languages. Everything from Japanese, Portuguese, English, Chinese, Korean and Filipino mixed with the local Hawaiian and nearby Polynesian languages to form a Hawaiian Creole, or pidgin.
Hawaiian slang is mostly based on the long standing local pidgin dialect that has made its way into popular culture and used by most of the local folks on the islands. To get you ready for your Hawaiian vacation, we’ve put together a list of words that you’re likely to hear while visiting Hawaii!
We’ll start with our favorite one, which you’re likely to hear everywhere you go! Aloha can mean lots of things, like Hello, goodbye, love, affection, kindness, or graciousness.
Example: “Everyone in Hawaii is filled with aloha for each other”
If you need some help pronouncing this one, try “I no care” slowly … and there you have it. The meaning and pronunciation! This popular slang phrase has become a popular brand name seen on shirts and logos around Hawaii.
Example: “You can’t go swimming with me? Ainokea. I go anyway.”
brok da mout
This comes from the English for “Broke the Mouth” and is something you say after you had food that was so delicious you couldn’t stand it. Let’s hope that happens to you when you try some of the local Hawaiian dishes during your Island and You tour!
Example: “Ho, brah. I grind so much ono food I brok da mout!”
If you have a lot of something, then you got “choke” things. For example, if you jump in the water and you see 100 dolphins swimming under you, then the water got “choke dolphins”.
Example: “I went snorkeling out by Makua Beach and the water had choke opihi.”
This is a catch-all word that can mean just about anything. If you can’t remember a specific word, just say “da kine” and that is a placeholder for the thing, place, person or idea. Its also where the name of the famous surf and skate brand came from.
Example: “Hey! Go tell da kine that I gotta take da kine to my house.”
Hopefully you will be doing a lot of this, which means to eat, or it can also mean good food, as in “grindz” (with a ‘z’).
Example: “You wanna go get some grindz? I’m starving!”
We know you’ll be using this phrase, which means “Once more, again.” Especially after you join in on our dolphin swim tour, Dolphins and You!
Example: “Wow! You play the ukulele so good! Hana hou!”
Thanks to our diverse culture, this means someone of mixed racial or ethnic heritage, especially involving Asian or Pacific Islander background.
Example: “I got one hapa friend who likes to surf.”
Forbidden, taboo, keep out. You might see this on signs so definitely pay attention so you have a hassle-free vacation. It’s also the name of the system of social law that existed in ancient Hawaii where many things were forbidden.
Example: “You better stay out of the military base. That place is kapu for civilians.”
The lua is a bathroom. Definitely a first stop after flying for hours over the Pacific Ocean!
Example: “I heard the Dolphins and You boat has a lua. Thank goodness!”
Feast, party. And you should definitely go to one while you’re here. It’s a great part of our culture that everyone should experience!
Example: “After I pau hana I’m heading to a lu’au at my friend’s house.”
You’ve probably heard this one. It means “thank you” and is one of the most often used Hawaiian words you’ll hear. Use it as much as you like while you’re here…we don’t mind! 😉
Example: “Mahalo for helping me clean up after the lu’au!”
makai / mauka
On an island everything is either “makai” (ocean side) or “mauka” (mountain side). It is often used when giving directions to indicate if you should be heading towards the water or towards the mountains.
Example: “Go down two miles and then stop when you see the big banyan tree on the makai side of the road. The store you’re looking for is on the mauka side.”
Your family, which can consist of immediate family members, extended relatives, and friends. This one was made famous by the animated movie Lilo & Stitch.
Example: “During the holidays I’m going to go visit my ohana on the mainland.”
Delicious, scrumptious. It’s what we say when describing the amazing food you’ll eat on the Island and You tour of Oahu!
Example: “Oh man. That was some ono kalua pig we had at the poi factory!”
Means after work or also an after work drink, kind of like happy hour. Definitely enjoy one while you’re here…even though you’re not working 😉 . You can also just say “pau” for when something is finished. Like “my dolphin tour is pau, but I wanna hana hou!”
Example: “You got any plans for pau hana?”
This is one of our favorites and you’ll see us doing them a lot on the Dolphin and You tour. It’s the universal hand gesture of Hawaii that can be used as a form of thanks, a greeting, or a good bye. If you join us on the Island and You tour, you might just hear the story of how this symbol was started on the Windward side of Oahu.
Example: “I saw my friend down the way and threw him a shaka.”
This is another way to say “okay”. You’ll also often hear “rahja” or “rahja dat”, which is derived from “roger that”, and can also mean “okay”, but usually with a bit more emphasis.
Example: A: “You wanna eat?” | B: “Shoots! Let’s go!”
Time for a Hawaiian slang pop quiz!
Want to test your knowledge? Here is a great video we found quizzing some of these Hawaiian slang (and one or two that we didn’t cover).
Want to learn more about Hawaiian culture?
Be sure to check out our Island and You tour. We take you all around Oahu and share the stories, histories, culture and food of this amazing island. You’ll have lots of chances to practice all of the Hawaiian slang you just learned. Just click here to learn more and book your tour today!