Hawaiian Idioms, Catch Phrases, Expletives and Interjections

 Idioms, Catch Phrases, Expletives and Interjections

He Mau `Ikeoma, `Ôlelo pôkole hopu, `Ôlelo mâpuna, A Me `Ôleloho`ôho

Source: Pukui, Mary Kawena & Elbert, Samuel H., Hawaiian Dictionary, Revised
and Enlarged Edition, University Of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1986.
Pronunciation Guide


[ah hah hah' nah !]

Shame on you!
You're gonna get it!

Variations of this taunting singsong phrase: ahana [ah hah' nah], ahana kôkô lele [ah hah' nah KOH' KOH' leh' leh].


[AH' HEH' ! ]

So! Oh! So that's it!

`Âhê means to exclaim, to "oh and ah"; "yes", "so that's it", "so", "oh".

Aia nô iâ `oe.

[ai' (y)ah NOH' (y)ee (Y)AH' oe]

Up to you! Your call!
Whatever you want!


[ai (Y)AH' !]

Oh, no! Ouch!

Used when something goes wrong. Sometimes to express surprise from sudden unexpected pain.

Ai`a! / Ei`a!

[ai' ah !] [ei' ah !]

There it is! / Here! Here it is!

What is said when something is suddenly found.

Aia ho`i!

[ai' (y)ah hoh' ee !]

Behold! Ta da! Lo!


[ai' koh lah !]

Serves you right! I told you so!

`Aikola is an interjection of scorn or derision, especially rejoicing over others' misfortunes. Hô`aikola is to be sarcastic, contemptible.


[AH' (y)ee vai' vah !]

Amazing! Fantastic! Mystifying! Marvelous! Wonderful (because of divinity)! Inexplicable!


[ah loh' hah !]

Click here to learn more Aloha greetings and here to learn more about aloha.

Aloha `ino!

[ah loh' hah ee' noh !]

How unfortunate!
What a pity!

Aloha nô!

[ah loh' hah NOH' !]

How sad! Used to express sincere sentiments, not sarcasm.

Also, aloha with emphasis.

`Ano `ê!

[ah' noh EH' !]

  • He `ê!
    [heh EH' !]

Strange! Odd! Different! Weird!


  • How strange!

`A`ohe launa!

[ah oh' heh lau' nah!]

"No fit!"
Inappropriate. Not a match.

`A`ole hiki ke `alo a`e.

[ah oh' leh hee' kee keh ah' loh (y)ah' eh]

"No can help,`as life."
It can't be helped; that's life.


[au (W)EH' !]

  • Auê nô ho`i!
    [au (W)EH' NOH' hoh' ee !]
  • Auê noho`i ê!
    [au (W)EH' noh hoh' ee (Y)EH!]
  • Auê ka nani!
    [au (W)EH' kah nah' nee !]

Oh! Oh dear! Oh boy! Alas! Oops! Too bad! My goodness!
(much used to express wonder, fear, scorn, pity, affection)

  • Oh-oh!
  • Boy, oh boy! Goodness!
  • Oh, how beautiful!


[au (W)EE'!]




What 'd you say?
Don't even think it.
"No make li' dat!"

Note: no kahakô. It really should have an `okina at the end, `E`! , as it is said staccato-like. Hawaiian syllables, however, do not end with consonants, and the `okina is a consonant. So pretend it is there, when you say, " `E!"

`Ê, `ê,`ê.

[EH', EH'. EH' ]

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Informal speech. As in mild agreement and indicating that one has heard.


[eh (y)ah?]

  • `Oia `ea?
    [oi (y)ah eh' (y)ah ?]
  • Pêlâ, `ea?
    [PEH' LAH', eh (y)ah?]

Isn't that so? That's it. Right?

`Ea? is often added to the end of sentences. Similar to "n'est pas?" In French, "no?" in Spanish, and "ne?" in Japanese.

  • Is that so?
  • It's that way, is it?

E komo mai!

[eh koh' moh mai!]

Welcome! Come in!

Literally, enter hither (to this place, here).


[HAH' mau!]


See Kulikuli!

Hana hou!

[hah' nah hou' !]


Literally, do it again.

He aha ke `ano?

[heh ah' hah keh ah' noh?]

What kind (of nonsense) is that?

`Ano means type, kind. Sometimes said scornfully. Literally, "What is the kind?"

He aha nô lâ kou `ano?

[heh ah' hah NOH' LAH' kou ah' noh ?]

What indeed is the matter with you?

`Ano also means personality, mood. Literally, this means "What's wrong with your personality?"

He mea iki!

[heh meh' (y)ah ee' kee !]

"Ain't no big t'ing", a trifle.

Literally, "A little thing." Figuratively, "You're welcome," in response to Mahalo (Thanks). A variant is He mea `ole kêia, "It's nothing."

Hele pêlâ!

[heh' leh PEH' LAH' !]

Beat it! Scat! Bug off!

Helu `ekahi!

[heh' loo eh kah' hee !]

Number one! First rate!


[heh' moh leh' leh !]

Perfection! Flawless!


[heh MOO' !]

Shoo! Be gone! Scat!


[hee' kee !]

  • Hiki nô!
    [hee' kee NOH' !]

Can do! Okay! All right! O.K. (in the sense of "able to do")!

  • Absolutely can do! Surely, it can be done! Hiki with more emphasis.


[HOH' !]

  • Hô ka nani!
    [HOH' kah nah' nee !]



  • How beautiful!


[hoh' kah !]

  • Â hoka!
    [AH' hoh' kah !]
  • Ua hoka akula `oe!
    [OO' (w)ah hoh KAH' koo lah oe' !]

Shucks! Lose out!

Hoka means disappointed, thwarted, baffled; disappointment, frustration.

  • Serves you right! Good for you (insulting).
  • Tough! Tough luck! You lose!



[HOH' oi' (y)oh !]

Show off!

Hô`oio means to show off, boast; to assume an air of superiority; conceited; affectation, conceit. Hô`oio le`a is to (childishly) show off with delight.


[hoh' oh mah nah vah nui' !]


Ho`manawanui means patience, steadfastness, fortitude; to have patience, fortitude; patient, steadfast, courageous and persevering.


[HOO' POH' !]

Hûpô o nâ hûpô!

[HOO' POH' oh NAH' HOO' POH' !]

Fool! Stupid!

Hûpô means ignorant, foolish, unintelligent, stupid; fool, foolishness. Literally, swelling darkness.

Fool of fools! Ignoramus!


[HOO' (w)ee !]


[OO' (w)ee !]

Yoohoo! Halloo!

More polite to call this out than knock on the door.

I mua!

[ee moo' (w)ah]


Mua means before, ahead, front, first, in advance.

Ikaika ka iwi.

[ee kai' kah kah (y)ee' vee]

Bones are strong.

Fig., good health in old age.


[KAH' ! ] [TSAH' ! ]

  • If spoken alone, often Châ! or Sah!
    [CHAH' ! sah !]

Oh! Shoot! How silly!

Used to express mild disapproval, annoyance, disgust, frustration or surprise.


[KAH' HAH' HAH' !]

An interjection of surprise, wonder, displeasure.


[kah' mah hah' oh !]

Wonderful! Astonishing! Marvelous! Wondrous! Remarkable! Surprising! Incomprehensible!


[KAH' poo loo !]


Kâpulu means careless, slovenly, unclean, gross, slipshod, untidy, disgusting, unkempt. Môkâkî also means messy or disheveled, but does not imply carelessness.


[KEH' NAH' !]

"Just li' dat!" That! (Used disparagingly for "you."

Kihe a mauli ola!

[kee' heh (y)ah mau' lee (y)oh lah !]

Bless you! Gesundheit!

Literally, "sneeze and live." An exclamation to one who has sneezed to ward off ill effects. Often shortened to Ola!


[kee' loh hah' nah !]

(The) Best! Most Excellent!

Kilohana is the name of the outside, decorated sheet of kapa in the ku`inakapa, bed coverings; the four inner layers were white, contrasting with the decorated kilohana. Hence, extended meanings: best, superior, excellent.

Kû ka paila!

[KOO' kah pai' lah !]

Hô, da plenny! A lot!

Literally, a big pile (of work to do). Paila, from English for pile.


[koo' lee koo' lee !]

Hush! Be quiet! Be still!

Kuli means knee. A mother would rap a disobedient child on the knee. Mai hana kuli (Refrain (your) noisy activity) is politer. Pa`a ka waha (Shut the mouth) and Hâmau! (Silence!) are more direct.


[koo pai' (y)ah nah hah !]

Amazing! Fantastic! Wonderful! Phenomenal! Surprising! Marvelous! Extraordinary! Astonishing!


[lah' kee !]


Transliterated from lucky.


[lah' nah kee' lah !]

Victory! Triumph!

Mea lanakila is winner, champion, victor.


[lah' poo vah' leh !]

Fool! Good-for-nothing! Worthless! Wretch! Scoundrel!

Lapu means ghost, phantom.


[lah' vah !]

  • Lawa kêlâ!
    [lah' vah KEH' LAH' !]
  • Lawa pono!
    [lah' vah poh' noh !]
  • Lawa pono `ole!
    [lah' vah poh' noh oh' leh !]



  • That's enough!


  • Plenty!
  • Not enough!


[LOH' LOH' !]

Stupid! Dumb!

Lôlô means paralyzed, numb, feeble-minded, stupid. Lolo [loh' loh], without kahakô, means brains.

Lua `ole!
Launa `ole!
Ana `ole!

[loo (w)ah oh' leh] [lau' nah oh' leh] [ah' nah oh' leh]

Unequaled! Unsurpassed! Incomparable! Second to none!


[mah hah oi' !]

Bold! Nervy!
(in an overly aggressive, impudent way)

An offensive trait to Hawaiians.

Maka hiamoe!

[mah' kah hee (y)ah moe' !]



[mai' kah ee !]

Good! Great! All right! Fine!

Maika`i means good, fine, all right, well; good-looking, good looks; handsome, beautiful; goodness, righteousness, benefit, well-being, morality, good health.


[MAH' kau kau]


Mâkaukau means prepared, ready. Literally, in the right, not left, place/position.


[mah nah KAH' !]


Manakâ means boresome, tiresome, dull, monotonous, wearied.


[mah nee' nee !]

Stingy! Cheap!

Manini is slang for stingy, and has nothing to do with the striped reef fish. Manini is the transliterated name of a well-known Spanish immigrant, Francisco de Paula Marin, who knew Kamehameha for more than 25 years, who introduced many fruit trees to Hawai`i and was not inclined to share his bounty with others.


[mee kee oi' !]

Excellently made!

Miki`oi means dainty and neat in craftsmanship, or in doing anything; deft, excellently made, as a result of skilled workmanship.


[mee' lee ah' pah !]


Mili`apa means slowpoke, slow, dilatory. Mili means slow, inefficient at work, `apa is to delay, waste time, keep others waiting.


[mee' nah mee' nah !]

How regrettable!

Minamina means regret, sorrow; to grieve for something that is lost; to regret, be sorry, deplore; to prize greatly, especially of something in danger of being lost; to value.

[moh loh (W)AH' !]

Lazy bones!

Moloâ means lazy, indolent.


[NAH' NAH' !]

  • Aia nô i ka nânâ `ana.
    [ai' (y)ah NOH' ee kah NAH'NAH' ah' nah]

See, I told you so!

Nânâ means to look at, observe, see, notice, inspect.

  • We'll see (what the future brings).

Na`u e uku.

[nah' oo (w)eh oo' koo]

My treat, I'll pay.


[oi' (y)ah]


This. Namely this. Thus, That's it. That's right. Go ahead. Start. Go (as shouted by referee at beginning of games).

`Oia ana!

[oi (Y)AH' nah !]

Let me see! Show me! I dare you (sarcastically)!

Usually shortened to `oiana pr `oliana.

`Oia `ea!

[oi' (y)ah eh (y)ah !]

`Oia `ane`i!

[oi' (y)ah ah neh' ee !]

Is that so! So that's it!

`Oia ho`i!

[oi' (y)ah hoh' ee !]

`Oia ho`i hâ!

[oi' (y)ah hoh' ee HAH' !]

So it is! That's so. For real!
(Said in exasperated agreement.)


All righty, then. So that's it after all.


`Oia kâ!

That's it!

`Oia nô.

[oi' (y)ah NOH']

`Â `oia!

[AH' oi' (y)ah !]

Yes. That's so. Really.


That's right!

`Oia paha.

[oi' (y)ah pah' hah]

Maybe so. All right (as in reluctant acquiescence).


[oh' lah]

Bless you! Gezunheit!

Ola means life, health, well-being, living, livelihood, means of support, salvation.

`Ole wale!

[oh' leh vah' leh !]



[oh' noh !]


  • `Ono loa!
    [oh' noh loh' (w)ah]
  • `Ono ka pu`u!
    [oh' noh kah poo' oo !]


`Ono means delicious, tasty, savory; to relish, crave; deliciousness, flavor, savor.

  • Very delicious!
  • Very tasty!
    Literally, the throat craves.


[pah' ah kee KEE' !]

Hardhead! Stubborn! Difficult!

Pa`akikî means hard, tough, unyielding, arbitrary, inflexible, difficult, stubborn, obstinate.



Done! Completed! The End!

Pau means finished, ended, through, terminated, completed, all done, over.

Pau ka pono!

[pau' kah poh' noh !]


Pehea lâ!

[peh heh' (y)ah LAH' !]

Pehea ho`i!

[peh heh' (y)ah hoh' ee !]

I don't know how!


How, I don't know. Who knows?


[peh' lah peh' lah !]


Pelapela means filthy, dirty, nasty, indecent, unclean, vulgar, lewd, obscene.


[pee lau' !]


Putrid! Rotten!

Pilau means rot, stench, rottenness; putrid, foul, spoiled, decomposed.

Pô`îno nô!

[POH' EE' noh NOH' !]

How unfortunate!


[poh HOH' !]

(You) lost out! Waste time!

Pohô means loss, damage; out of luck; vain, no use doing something, wasted effort; lose out.


[poh loh lei' !]


Pololei means straight, upright, direct, correct, right, O.K., accurate, all right.

Pômaika`i nô!

[POH' mai kah ee NOH' !]


  • E pili mau nâ pômaika`i me `oe!
    [eh pee' lee mau' NAH' POH' mai kah ee meh oe' !]

How fortunate!

Pômaika`i means good fortune, blessedness, blessing, profit, prosperity; prosperous, fortunate, beneficial, lucky; good luck.

  • Best wishes!
    Literally, "may you always have good fortune."


[poo poo' kah !]

Frequently [POO' poo kah] for emphasis. When said with a friendly or admiring intonation among friends, it means the opposite, i.e., beautiful, attractive; this was due to the reluctance to express admiration for fear a sorcerer would in jealousy bewitch the admired person.


Pupuka means ugly, unsightly, unseemly, unattractive, homely, wicked. This word is also said in response to Pehea `oe? (How are you?), with meaning that one is improving but hesitates to say he is well for fear of bad luck.

Sometimes used to describe a beautiful baby, to curb jealousy.


[poo poo' leh !]

Sometimes pûpule [POO' poo leh] for emphasis.

  • Pupule kêlâ!
    [POO' poo leh KEH' LAH' !]


Pupule means crazy, insane, reckless, wild. Probably derived from pule (prayer).

  • That's crazy!


[OO' !]

Grunt! Groan! Moan! Sigh! Hum! Coo!

also means to mourn, grieve, an exclamantion of delight or assent; to grunt 'yes, yes (saying that you are listening)!


[oo' (w)ee HAH' !]

Yeah! Yippee!


[oo (w)oh' kee !]

Stop that! Quit! Don't touch! Be careful!

Idiom used only in commands.

Wela ka hao!

[veh' lah kah hao' !]

Strike when the iron is hot!

 Updated 5-23-98
I welcome additions, corrections, modifications. Mahalo in advance.

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