Hawaiian Dictionary | Going Native on Kauai

Hawaiian Phrases To Use On Your Vacation

Soon enough when you are on Kauai Hawaii you will realize the that locals intersperse the Hawaiian language in their English sentences and speak their own special dialect called “Pidgin English” or sometimes called, “Broken English”. It’s even more common once you leave the main island of Oahu and head over to Kauai where it is more rural and there is the largest population of native Hawaiian speakers in the islands. Do not panic if at first… or second you don’t understand what is being said, just ask. “Sorry I nevah catch what you been say”.

The Hawaiian Language Flourishes On Kauai

Not unlike many areas around the world where colonization brought a stew of cultures together, out of necessity a need to communicate that could span several native tongues quickly developed. And just like a recipe that is constantly fiddled with, where the chef combines flavors famous in one culture to enrich  a traditional dish, so it is with Hawaiian Pidgin.

In the early 1800′s the off spring of the original missionaries to Hawaii became the entrepreneurs of this growing kingdom. They saw opportunities in the whaling and agricultural industries and realized that they required cheap labor from other countries to stoke the engines of capitalism. These laborers brought different language backgrounds to Hawaii, thus, Hawaiian Pidgin grew and acquired words from English, Chinese, Japanese, Fillipino, Portuguese, and Korean.

Linguists have classified Hawaiian Pidgin as a native Creole language and while not encouraged in a business protocol you can sometimes hear it in offices. Most people here in Kauai will speak Hawaiian Pidgin with friends, switching in and out of correct English as seamlessly as a car shifting gears.

We have compiled a small list of favorite words and phrases that will help our guests ease into this culture that we have embraced for the past 30 years. Our travel experience has taught us to pack 10-20 common words when we travel. We have found it is a great ice breaker and there are always helpful locals that will be impressed with your caring of their culture to attempt to speak their tongue. You will not say the word correctly, but its a great opener to start a conversation when they assist you in the pronunciation.

Go on, jump right in the locals may advise you to add a “Shaka” hand gesture to the ‘Aloha’ for greater emphasis, and soon you will be on your way to “Going Native”.

Hawaiian Words

Akamai: Knowledgeable
Ali’i: Hawaiian royalty
Aloha: Hello, Goodbye, Love
Aloha Au la ‘Oe: I love you
Hana: day
Hana Hou!: One more time!
Haole: Foreigner, Caucasian
Holoholo: to walk or travel for fun
Hu’hu: angry, upset
Huli: to turn
Ika: fish
Kahuna: Priest
Kamaaina: Local. Person of the land.
Kane: man
Keiki or pepe: Baby
Kolohe: devilish, usually referencing a child
Kumu: teacher
Lua: bathroom
Luau: Hawaiian feast
Mahalo: Thank you
Mahalo nui loa: Thank you very much
Malahini: Newcomer. Visitor
Ohana: family
Pali: Cliff
Paniolo: cowboy
Pau: finished. Used as, ” It’s pau hana
Puka: hole
Pu pu’s: snack, appetizer
Wahine: woman

Useful Hawaiian Pidgin Phrases:

Aznuts: You’re talking crazy
Boddah you? Is this annoying to you?
Brah or Braddah: brother. Also said to strangers, “Aloha brah welcome to Kauai”
“Pau already, time to go home”. Used primarily at the end of the work day.
Broke da Mout: This is really good food.
Bumbye we make ‘em: One of these days I’ll get around to it.
Choke cars: Too much traffic.
Da’Kine: whatchamacallit! Used like, “That’s da’kine brah”, meaning whatever was being referenced is really cool.
Fo’ Real?: Are you positive?
Geev’um: Go for broke.
Grind: to eat. Used as, “I like grind brah, I stay hungry”.
Hale: house
Hawaiian time: Late
Howzit?: How is it going?
Huli huli: turning, also used to reference rotisserie meats. Also used as, ” Ho brah did you see him Huli on that wave”?
Junk: bad, not good.
Slippahs: ‘flip flops’
Talk Stink: Speaking ill of someone.
Try Move: Excuse me. Please move out of the way.
Shoots We Go: Time to depart.
Shoots We Grind: Let’s go and eat.

Let us know your favorite Hawaiian words or Hawaiian phrases and post them in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
Here is a very special chant by Uncle Nathan at this years Prince Kuhio Celebration

About Joe Sylvester

Aloha! I have lived on Kauai for 33 years where I have worked as an Agronomist for 17 years, owned an art gallery for 11 years and own a vacation rental for 17 years in the town of Poipu. I am a former Peace Corps volunteer and have been married since 1985.
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  1. Thats quite a Life cuz…we’re proud of you, give Dad our love,

    Cuz Bobby and Kitty

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