`Ôlelo No`eau
Hawaiian Words of Wisdom

Source: Mary Kawena Pukui, `Ôlelo No`eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings Bishop Museum Press, 1983.


E hele ka `elemakule, ka luahine,
a me na kamali`i a moe i ke ala
`a`ohe mea nana e ho`opilikia.

Let the old men, the old women, and the children go
and sleep on the wayside; let them not be molested.

The Law of the Splintered Paddle,
King Kamehameha I.


Ua mau ke ea o ka `aina i ka pono.

The life of the land is preserved in righteousness.

Motto of Hawai`i.



Stand firm.

Motto of Queen Lili`uokalani.


`A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke pâna`i.

No kind deed has ever lacked its reward.

Hawaiians are known
for their generosity, hospitality
and warm sharing.
This giving nature is grounded in the
principle of reciprocity.
When given, the Hawaiian will give back
in equal measure or more,
be it a gift or a smile.


E noho iho i ke opu weuweu, mai ho`oki`eki`e.

Remain among the clumps of grass and do not elevate yourself.

Don't show off.
Don't get puffed up and big-headed.
Be ha`aha`a (humble),
which does not mean
timid, submissive, and spineless.
An inner self-confidence
which gives rise to quiet strength
is far more admirable than
self-importance, arrogance,
and egotism.


Ku`ia ka hele a ka na`au ha`aha`a.

Hesitant walks the humble hearted.

A humble person walks carefully, so as not to hurt others.
Don't walk all over people !

Those who are sensitive to others
inspire respect and allegiance.
Those who throw their weight around
will hurt others, and eventually themselves,
when enough people
have been hurt.


Aia a pa`i `ia ka maka, ha`i `ia kupuna nana `oe.

Only when your face is slapped should you tell
who your ancestors are.

Do not ride
on the coattails of your kupuna (ancestors).
For anyone of aristocratic ancestry,
speaking or boasting of one's pedigree
was unseemly, unless slandered or challenged.
For the commoner,
impressing others by trying to be someone else
was improper, and
fussing over status was pretentious.
Be yourself!


He lawai`a no ke kai papa`u, he pôkole ke aho;
he lawai`a no ke kai hohonu he loa ke aho.

A fisherman of the shallow sea
uses only a short line;
a fisherman of the deep sea has a long line.

A person
whose knowledge is shallow
does not have much,
but he, whose knowledge is deep, does.


Aloha mai no, aloha aku;
o ka huhu ka mea e ola `ole ai.

When love is given, love should be returned;
anger is the thing that gives no life.

Hawaiians understood
the transforming power of aloha.
Love begets love,
and enmity produces enmity.
Anger only serves to hurt the angry,
causing emotional upset,
which impairs mental,
physical, and spiritual well-being.


Nana ka maka;
ho`olohe ka pepeiao;
pa`a ka waha.

Observe with the eyes;
listen with the ears;
shut the mouth.

Thus one learns.


Ua ola no i ka pane a ke aloha.

There is life in a kindly reply.

Though one may have no gift
to offer to a friend,
a kind word or a friendly greeting
is just as important.


He kehau ho`oma`ema`e ke aloha.

Love is like a cleansing dew.

The cleansing power of aloha
can soothe and heal.
Hurt, pain, and suffering
yield to aloha's healing power.


Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua.

Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers.

Flowers thrive
where there is water,
as thriving people are found
where living conditions are good.


Mai ho`oni i ka wai lana mâlie.

Do not disturb the water that is tranquil.

Let the peaceful
enjoy their peace.


`A`ohe loa i ka hana a ke aloha.

Distance is ignored by love.


Hana `i`o ka haole!

The foreigner does it in earnest!

Generally easy-going,
Hawaiians didn't order people off their lands
or regard them as trespassers.
When the foreigners began to own lands,
people began to be arrested for trespassing
and lands were fenced in
to keep the Hawaiians out.


Ho`ola`i na manu i ke aheahe.

The birds poise quietly in the gentle breezes.

Said of those
who are at peace with the world,
undisturbed and contented.


Me he lau no ke Ko`olau ke aloha.

Love is like the ends (fingertips) of the Ko`olau breeze.

Love is like a zephyr--
gentle and invisible
but present nevertheless.


Ua ola loko i ke aloha.

Love gives life within.

Love is imperative to one's
mental, physical, emotional
and spiritual welfare.


I ku ka makemake e hele mai,
hele no me ka malo`elo`e.

If the wish to come arises, walk firmly.

If you wish to come do not be hesitant,
for you are welcome.


He `ôpû hâlau.

A house-like stomach.

A heart as big as a house.
Said of a person who is
kind, gracious, and hospitable.


Mai `ena i ke kanaka i laka aku.

Do not shy away from a person who is attracted to you.

Treat a person who comes in kindness
with kindness.


Moloka`i pule o`o.

Moloka`i of the potent prayers.

Moloka`i is noted for its spirituality.




Aloha a hui hou, Aunty D

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