Hawaiian Spelling of Words
Just in case
is Hawaii spelled Hawai`i?
the correct spelling in the Hawaiian language, one of the TWO
official languages of Hawai`i.
HAWAI`I STATE CONSTITUTION,
ARTICLE XV, SECTION 4, OFFICIAL LANGUAGES (1978)
and Hawaiian shall be the official languages of Hawai`i,
except that Hawaiian shall be required for public acts
and transactions only as provided by law.
will notice throughout this web site that the word
"Hawai`i" has a mark between the two " i " letters.
The mark is
called an `okina, which indicates to the speaker
that a break in the sound is to be taken, as in the exclamation,
In English, the `okina
is called a glottal
stop. A glottal stop is the quick stopping of sound
created when the flap of skin in the throat voicebox called the
glottis closes the air flow so no sound passes through.
With the proper
font, it looks like an upside-down
apostrophe -- or a "6" with the circle colored
This mark is still
not available on the Internet, so instead the mark, `, is used
in its place.
is the diacritical mark for
(I do not use the
upright mark: '
as an `okina, as it is an apostrophe or an accent mark to
indicate stressed syllables)
Correct spelling: Hawai`i
[hah wah' ee] or [hah' wai] or [hah wai' yah]
Correct pronunciation: [hah wai' ee] or [hah vai' ee]
The letter "w" in Hawai`i is correctly pronounced with a "w" sound or
a "v" sound.
Mispronunciations of Hawaiian Words
Mispronunciations of Hawaiian Place Names
Hawai`i is spelled with an `okina, shouldn't the word
Hawaiian also have one?
That is, shouldn't it be spelled:
"Hawaiian" is an English word.
Correct spelling: Hawaiian
In the Hawaiian
language, "Hawaiian" translates to: Hawai`i.
"Hawaiian things" is nā mea Hawai`i;
"the Hawaiian people" are ka po`e Hawai`i.
In general, the word that describes (adjective) goes after
the noun in Hawaiian, not ahead of it as in English. An exception is
when indicating a number of something: the number goes first.
Hawaiian: `Elua Hawai`i
is luau spelled lū`au?
the correct spelling in the Hawaiian language. It is pronounced
mark over the first "u" letter -- depicted here with ^
and called a kahakō in Hawaiian means to elongate that "u" sound for two beats, instead of just
Same goes for
the word pīkake. Correct: [PEE kah' keh] --
stretch out that "i" sound. Incorrect: [pee kah'
pronunciation: [pee kah' keh]
[PEE kah' keh] -- stretch out that "i" sound
before the letter "a" in the word lū`au means
"take a break in the sound".
Graphic: Courtesy of Old
Incorrect pronunciation: [loo wow']
-- stretch out that first syllable
know the original Hawaiian word for a Hawaiian feast was `aha
`aina? The use of the word lū`au for this feast
goes back to 1856, when it was so used by the Pacific Commercial
Advertiser, a Honolulu newspaper.
The word lū`au refers to the young kalo
(taro) leaves that is always served in the two of the main dishes
that are commonly served at these feasts called chicken
lū`au and laulau.
Look at the shape of the
leaf. Not surprising that wide feet are referred as
"lū`au feet." Such feet has nothing to do with a
feast, but everything to do with the broadness of the taro leaf.
are Hawaiian nouns NOT pluralized (made more than than one) by adding an
"s" at the end?
Hawaiian language, making things plural is not done by adding an
"s" after it, as in "one hula, two hulas".
Instead, "the hula" is ka hula and "the
hula (more than one)" is nā hula and, "a hula" is he
hula and "more than one hula" is he mau
makes a Hawaiian word plural comes before the noun, not
after it as in English. So when using Hawaiian words in
English text, resist the temptation to add an "s" to
make it plural.
hulas, leis, mahalos, meles, keikis, kumus.
hula, lei, mahalo, mele, keiki, kumu -- whether it is singular
than one lei
A million Hawaiian garlands is
still a million lei. This pluralization occurs in the English language
as well. Examples include: deer, moose or
sheep. One deer. Ten deer, One moose. Many moose.
One sheep. A herd of sheep.
is the difference between kupuna
pronounced [koo poo' nah], refers to a single elder.
pronounced [KOO poo' nah] refers to more than one elder.
The difference is in the pronunciation. The letter
"u" in the plural form is elongated.
[koo poo' nah]
bevy of beautiful kūpuna
[KOO poo' nah]
that KOO sound.
not unlike English's "one man, two men," "a
woman, bunch of women" or "child, children".
The plural takes on a different form.
Sometimes English is far more
complicated with its exceptions
than Hawaiian. As examples: One ox. Two oxen. One
goose. Many geese. Right?
why is more than one mongoose referred to as mongooses and not mongeese?
How come it is scissors and not scissor? Why is it
trousers and not trouser?
English mo' kapakahi (topsy-turvy) den Hawaiian!
`A`ole pilikia (No worry). Sleep on it.
I studied Hawaiian, I thought momona
meaning "fat" or "chubby" was a Japanese
word. Wrong! It's a Hawaiian word meaning
"sweet," as in ripened (fat) fruit.
Hawaiian: mīkana momona
thought paliki meaning "fancy" was a
Hawaiian word. I couldn't find it in the Hawaiian
Dictionary. Why? Because it is a Filipino word!
Gylene looking pretty darn paliki!
I was shocked to
learn that kaukau is not a Hawaiian word. "Laulau is da
kaukau at da lū`au," right? But
try finding kaukau in the Hawaiian Dictionary. No steh!
It's pidgin. Maybe from the Chinese word "chow,"
as in "chowchow." Or from the Hawaiian word
for table: pākaukau?
Hawaiian: mea `ai
nevah too late to learn Hawaiian! Hiki
nō (Can do)!
~ Aunty D
on Hawaiian spelling and pronunciation
>> Hawaiian Language
© 2002, AD