Hawaiian Proverbs and Wise Sayings about and for Kūpuna (Elders/Seniors) : Da' Hawaii Club Web Site



Hawaiian Proverbs and Wise Sayings 
about and for nā kūpuna -- elders/seniors

da' hawaii club logo


He hulu ali`i. 

Royal feathers.

Said of the adornment of a chief, or of an elder who is one of the few survivors of his or her generation and therefore precious.

  See photo of a lei hulu (feather lei)


He hulu makua.

A feather parent.

When most of the relatives of the parents' generation were gone, the few left were referred to as hulu mākua and considered as precious and choice as feathers, which were considered treasures in Hawaiian culture.  

Cerritos Demographics



He keiki e nānā ana,
he keiki e nānā `ole ana.

One child may care,
and another may not.

Said to one who raises a family -- some may take care of the senior members of the the family and some may not.  

Such is life.



`Elemakule kama`ole moe ike ala. 

An oldster who has never reared children sleeps by the roadside.

Caring for and rearing the young ones (with Aloha) results in being cared for in old age. 

Mālama (take care of) each other.



E mālama i ka mākua, o ho`omakua auane`i i ka ha`i.

Take care of (your) parents lest (the day come when) you will be caring for someone else's.

Mākua includes all relatives of the parents' generation, including their siblings and cousins.  Said to a rude or ungrateful child. You should think of your own elder first, while he or she is still alive, lest after his or her death, you must take care of someone who had no part in rearing you.



I pa`a i kona kupuna `a`ole kākou e puka. 

Had our ancestress died in bearing our  grandparent, we would not have come forth.  If it had ended with her, you would not be here.

Said to a younger sibling to encourage more respect for an elder. The seniors are to be respected.  They came first.  Life is a gift; without them, no gift.



He keiki mea kupuna.

(It shows) that the child has a grandparent.

Said in admiration of a child whose grandparents show affection by making beautiful things for his or her use or compose songs and chants in the child's honor.  A similar expression is He keiki mea makua: (It shows) that the child has a parent.



Pipili no ka pīlali i ke kumu kukui.

The pīlali gum sticks to the kukui tree.

Said of one who remains close to a loved one all the time, as a child may cling to the grandparent he or she loves.



A`ea`e mōhala i luna o ke kukui.

Whiteness unfolds on the kukui tree.

Used in reference to a person who grays, comparing them to a blooming kukui tree laden with white flowers.


Ola a kau kea.

Lives till the sugar cane tassels.

Said of one who lives until his hair whitens with age.




Ehu ahiahi.

Evening twilight.

In English, "old age."  

The Hawaiian expression is far gentler 
and infinitely more poetic.



`Oia la he koa no ke ano ahiahi;
`oia nei no ke ano kakahiaka.

He is a warrior of the evening hours;
but this person here is of the morning hours.

That person has had his day and is no longer as active as before; but his person is strong, brave and ready to show his/her prowess.

Jes'  like Da' Hawai`i club members!



Li`uli`u wale ka nohona i ka lā o Hauola, 
a holoholo i ke one o `Alio.

Long has one tarrried in the sunlight of Hauola and walked on the sand of `Alio.

Said in praise of an aged person.  There is a play on the word ola (life) in the name Hauola.



`Ike aku, `ike mai, kōkua aku kōkua mai; 
pela iho la ka nohana `ohana.

Recognize others, be recognized, help others, be helped; such is a family relationship.

Hawaiians share their lives with their `ohana (extended family).  `Ohana is the most important part of life for them, encompassing those born with blood ties, those accepted by marriage or hānai (adopted, formally or informally), deceased and spiritual ancestors, as well as those tied to the same ‘āina.

This saying teaches why you put `ohana first.  In the `ohana, you know others and they know you, you help others and know you will be helped if there is anything you need.

Da' Hawai`i Club is one big `ohana.

  Information on `ohana and hānai



E lauhoe mai na wa`a; i ke kā, i ka hoe; 
i ka hoe, i ke kā; pae aku i ka `āina.

Everybody paddle together; bail and paddle; paddle and bail; and the shore is reached.,

Many hands lighten the work. If everybody works together the work will be done quickly. On canoe trips, the two most important tools besides the sail were the paddles and the bailer. In heavy seas, the water would wash over the boat; one or more would be constant bailing, while the others would be paddling together to reach their destination.   

As we journey to our destinies, may we paddle and bail, together, as one.


I mōhala no ka lehua i ke ke'eke`ehi `ia e ka ua.

Lehua blossoms unfold because the rain tread upon them.

It is the rain that brings forth the lehua blossoms.  So gentle words bring forth much that is desired. 

 People, young and old,  respond better to gentle words than to scoldings.


Pūpūkāhi i holomua.

Unite to move forward.

By working together we make progress. Each paddler must be pulling his or her paddle in synchrony with the others to make the canoe move forward quickly forward.  

This wisdom applies to our club, Da' Hawai`i Club.



I ka 'ōlelo no ke ola, i ka 'ōlelo no ka make.

 In the language or word  is life, in the language or word  is death.

In ancient Hawai'i, a kahuna `anā`anā (sorcery by incantation and prayer) could pray someone to death or counter another's death prayer.

Words can heal; words can destroy.  Choose wisely, as what goes around, comes around.


  More Hawaiian Proverbs and Wise Sayings

Ke kumu / Source: Mary Kawena Pukui, `Ōlelo No`eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai`i, 1983.

  A Hawaiian Love Story

© 2002 Aunty D
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