Island Lingo

Hawaii Island Lingo

As a resident of the Aloha State you will be surrounded by gorgeous sunsets, scenic landscapes and a diverse mix of culture that reflects Hawaii’s complex history. Hawaii has two official languages, Hawaiian and English. Hawaiian residents speak a form of English all their own, which features common words and slang borrowed from Chinese, Japanese, and other languages. Additionally, a pidgin dialect is considered the third, “unofficial” language.

Below are some of the words you will get used to hearing as part of day-to-day Hawaii Island lingo.

  • Aloha (Ah-LOW-ha) – hello, goodbye. Also can mean love, kindness, compassion and affection.
  • Aloha is considered to be one of the core values of Hawaiian culture – the Aloha spirit is the guiding relaxed way of life in Hawaii.
  • E komo mai (eh-COH-mo MY) – welcome, come inside.
  • ‘olu’olu (OH-loo OH-loo) – please.
  • Mahalo (mah-HAH-low) – thank you.
  • He mea ‘ole (hey MEH-ah-OH-leh) – you’re welcome.
  • E ia nei (EY EE-ah NAY-ee) – Excuse me. (To get attention.)
  • Noi kou kala (NO-ee KO-oo KA-la) Excuse me. (To beg pardon.)
  • A`ole pilikia (AH-oh-lay pee-lee-KEE-ah) No problem, You’re welcome.
  • `Ae  (eye) – Yes.
  • `A`ole (AH-oh-lay) – No.

Here are a few more helpful expressions, in both Hawaiian and pidgin:

  • Lua (LOO-ah) – bathroom. Kane (KA-neh) means men and wahine (wa-HEE-neh) means women.
  • howzit – (HOW-sit) – hello, how’s it going?
  • ainokea (eye-no-KEH-ah) – No worries, it’s cool. A contraction of “I no care,” this slang phrase can be found on shirts and logos around the islands.
  • shaka – a universal Hawaiian hand gesture made by making a fist and extending your thumb and pinky finger out.  It can be used as a form of thanks, a greeting, or a good bye.
  • pau (POW) – done, finished.

As a newcomer, residents will not expect you to speak Hawaiian or pidgin. However, understanding a few words will help you to get settled in and expand your ‘ohana (network of family and friends).