o-places

Is it Hah-wah-ee or Hah-vah-ee?
Say it Right. Spell it Right.

 

Neither is correct!

Surprised? I was. I'd been mispronouncing it Hah-wah- ee, all my life! Ha wai' ee or Hah vai' ee are the CORRECT pronunciations, with the diphthong, "ai", which sounds like the "i" in "bite" or "Viking".

Perhaps, like me, you've unknowingly "slaughtered" the pronunciations of our place names. Hey, we didn't know any better. Let's not beat ourselves up. Now we know better.

One day, proper and due respect will be accorded our language, especially with the names of our wahi pana (cherished places). I envision a time when names on street signs, maps, and newspapers are accurately spelled with `okina and kahakô, and correctly pronounced by radio and TV personalities, newscasters, flight attendants, tour guides, and other public speakers. In the meantime, let us become gentle educators, prodding others into "correctness" with our aloha.

We can make a difference.

Sources:
Pukui, Mary Kawena & Elbert, Samuel H.,
Hawaiian Dictionary, Revised and Enlarged Edition, University Of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1986.
Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., & Mookini, Esther T, PLACE NAMES OF HAWAI`I, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1974.

Pronunciation Guide

Index

Nâ Moku Hawai`i
Hawaiian Islands

Ni`ihau

Lana`i

Kaua`i

Maui

O`ahu

Kaho`olawe

Moloka`i

Hawai`i

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Ka`Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Ni`ihau

[nee ee hau']

[nee' how]

Pu`uwai

  • heart

[poo oo vai']

[poo' vai]

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Ka`Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `ole Mispronunciation

Kaua`i

[kau (w)ah' ee]

[kah wai']

[cow eye]

Lîhu`e

  • cold chill

[LEE hoo eh]

[lee hooey]

[lay hoo ee]

Hanalei

  • crescent bay

[hah nah lei ']

 

[han' nah lay]

Hanapêpê

  • crushed bay

[hah nah PEH' PEH']

[han' nah pay pay]

 

Kapa`a

  • the solid

[kah pah' ah]

[kah PAH']

Kôke`e

  • to bend or to wind

[KOH' keh eh]

[KOH' KEH']

Nâ Pali

  • the cliffs

[NAH' pah' lee]

[nah pah' lee]

 

Po`ipû

  • overcast, crashing

[poh ee POO']

[poy' poo]

Wai`ale`ale

  • rippling water or overflowing water

[wai' ah leh ah leh]

[why alley alley]

Mountain (5080 ft), mean annual rainfall: 476 inches.

Waimea

  • reddish water

[wai' meh (y)ah]

[why mee' ah]

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Ka`Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

O`ahu

[oh ah' hoo]

[oh wah' hoo]

`Aiea

  • Nothocestrum tree

[ai' (y)eh (y)ah]

[ai eh' ah]

`Âina Haina

  • Hind's land, named for the part-Hawaiian Hind family

[AH' (y)ee nah
hai' nah]

[ai' nah hai' nah]

Ala Moana

  • (open) ocean street

[ah' lah
moh (w)ah' nah]

[al' ley
mow wan' nah]

Hau`ula

  • red hau tree

[hau' oo lah]

[hah OO lah]

[hah oo oo lah]

Honolulu

  • sheltered bay

[hoh' noh loo' loo]

[hah' nah loo loo]

[han' nah lew lew]

`Iolani

  • royal hawk
    (the high flight of the hawk signified royalty)

[ee' (y)oh lah' nee]

 

[ee oh lah' nee]

Royal palace, named after King Kamehameha IV (Alexander `Iolani)

Ka`a`awa

  • the wrasse fish

[kah' ah ah' vah]

[kah ah' vah]

[KAH' vah]

Kaimukî

  • the ti oven

[kai moo KEE']

[kai moo' kee]

Kahalâ

  • amberjack fish

[kah hah LAH']

[kah hah' lah]

Kailua

  • two seas

[kai' loo (w)ah]

 

[kai loo' ah]

 

Ka`iulani

  • the royal sacred height

[kah iu' lah nee]

 "iu" diphthong sounds like "ew" in the word, few.

[kai lah' nee]

Avenue, hotel, for Princess Ka`iulani (1875-1899), niece of King Kalâkaua

Kalâkaua

  • the day (of) battle

[kah LAH' kau (w)ah]

[kah lah kah' wah]

Avenue, parkway named for King Kalâkaua (1836-1891)

Kalaniana`ole

  • the royal chief without measure

[kah lah' nee ah' nah oh' leh]

[kah lah nee an' na oh lee]

Highway named for Prince Jonah Kûhiô Kalaniana`ole

Kamehameha

  • the lonely

[kah meh' hah meh' hah]

[kah me ah me ah]

NEVER: [kam]

Kâne`ohe

  • bamboo husband (according to one account, a woman compared her husband's cruelty to the cutting edge of a bamboo knife)

[KAH' neh oh' heh]

 

[can nee oh' hee]

[kah' neh oh' heh]

 

Kapi`olani

  • the arch (of) heaven (rainbows signified the presence of royalty

[kah pih' oh lah' nee]

[kap' pee oh lan' nee]

[kah pyo lah nee]

Park / Boulevard is named for Queen Kapi`olani, (1834-1899) wife of King Kalâkaua

Kawaiaha`o

  • water used by Ha`o, a chiefess who bathed in a nearby spring

[kah wai' ah hah' oh]

[kah wai' how]

Church in Honolulu

Ke`eaumoku

  • Street in Honolulu, named for a Maui chief

[keh' eh (y)au moh' koo]

[kay yow' moh koo]

Kemo`o

  • the lizard

[keh moh' oh]

[KEE MOO]

Ko`olau

  • windward

[koh oh lau']

[koh lau']

 

Lâ`ie

  • leaf of the `ie

[LAH' ee (y)eh]

 

[lai' yeh]

[lah ee' eh]

Lanikai

  • sea heaven, marine heaven

Developers believed it meant "heavenly sea", but in Hawaiian, the adjective follows the noun, and hence this less poetic meaning

[lah nee kai']

[lanny kai]

Likelike

  • glowing

[lee' keh lee' keh]

[leaky leaky]

[like like]

Highway named for Princess Miriam Likelike (1851-1887), younger sister of King Kalâkaua

Mâ`ili

  • pebbly

[MAH' ee lee]

[my' lee]

[my' lay]

Mâkaha

  • fierce

[MAH' kah hah]

[mah kah' hah]

Makapu`u

  • hill beginning or bulging eye

[mah' kah poo' oo]

 

[mah kah poo']

Mânoa

  • vast

[MAH' noh (w)ah]

[mah know' ah]

Mô`ili`ili

  • pebble lizard

[MOH' ee lee ee lee]

[moi' lih lih]

[moh' ee lih lih]

Mokulê`ia

[moh koo LEH' ee (y)ah]

[moh koo lay' yah]

Nânâkuli

  • look (at the) knee or look deaf

[NAH' NAH' koo lee]

[nah nah koo' lee]

Nu`uanu

  • cool height

[noo' oo (w)ah' noo]

[noo' ah noo]

[noo' wah noo]

Pâlolo

  • clay

[PAH' loh loh]

[pah low' low]

Pipeline

[pee' peh lee' neh] *

[pipe line]

Punahou

  • new spring

[poo nah hou']

[pun' nah hoe]

[poo nah hoh']

Punalu`u

  • coral dived for; diving spring

[poo' nah loo' oo]

[poo nah loo']

Wai`alae

  • mudhen water

[wai' ah lae']

[wai' lai]

[why lie]

Wahiawâ

  • milkfish place

[wah hee (y)ah WAH]

[wah hee ah wah']

[wah hee wah']

Wai`anae

  • mullet fish

[wai ah nae']

[wai ' nai']

Waikîkî

  • spouting water

[wai KEE' KEE']

[wai kih kih']

[wah kee kee]

*Joke, joke. I couldn't resist. It is pipeline [pipe' line]. J

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Ka `Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Moloka`i

[moh' loh kah' ee]

[moh loh' kai]

[moll' low kai]

Kaunakakai

  • beach landing

[kau' nah kah kai']

[kah' nah kah kai']

 

Hâlawa

  • curve

[HAH' lah vah]

[hah lah vah]

Ho`olehua

  • acting the expert

[hoh' oh
leh hoo' (w)ah]

 

[HOH' leh hoo ah]

[hoh lay hoo' ah]

`Ili`ili`ôpae

  • stones shrimp

[ee' lee ee' lee OH' pae]

[ee lee lee oh pai']

Largest, oldest heiau on Moloka`i

Kalaupapa

  • the flat plain

[kah lau' pah pah]

[kah' lah pah' pah]

Kaluako`i

  • the adze pits

[kah loo' (w)ah koh' ee]

[kah loo ah koi']

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Ka`Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Lâna`i

  • day of conquest

[LAH' nah ee]

[lah nai']

Lâna`i City

[LAH' nah ee si' ti]

[lah nai' si ti]

Kô`ele

  • dark sugar cane

[KOH' eh leh]

[koh eh' leh]

Mânele

  • sedan chair

[MAH' neh leh]

[mah ney' lee]

[man nel' lee]

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Ka `Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Maui

  • Originally, Mâui, for the demigod

[mau' (w)ee]

[mah' wee]

Haleakalâ

  • house (used / acquired) by the sun)

[hah leh ah kah LAH']

[halley ah' kah lah]

[hal' eh ah' kah lah]

Hâli`imaile

  • strewn maile

[HAH' lee ee mai leh]

[hai' lee mai' lee]

[hi lee my lee]

Hâna

  • alert

[HAH' nah]

[hah' nah]

[han' nah]

Honokôhau

  • bay drawing dew

[hoh noh KOH' hau]

[hoh' noh koh' how]

Kâ`anapali

  • division cliff

[KAH' ah nah pah lee]

[KAH' nah pah lee]

[can' nah pal' lee]

Kahului

  • the winning

[kah hoo lui']

[kah hoo loo' wee]

 

Kîhei

  • cape, cloak

[KEE' hei]

[kee' hey]

[kee' hay]

Lahaina

  • Originally, Lâhainâ, day of cruelty or cruel sun

[lah hai' nah]

Originally,

[LAH' hai NAH']

 

Nâpili

  • the joinings or pili grass

[NAH' pee lee]

[nah pee lee]

Pâ`ia

  • noisy

[PAH' ee (y)ah]

[pah EE' ah]

[pie' yah]

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Ka`Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Kaho`olawe

[kah' hoh oh lah' veh]

[kah' hoh lah' veh]

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Ka `Ôlelo Hawai`i
Hawaiian Language

Ka Puana Pololei *
Pronunciation

Ka Puana Pololei `Ole Mispronunciation

Hawai`i

[hah wai' ee] or

[hah vai' ee]

[hah wah' ee]

[hah vah' ee]

[hah wai' yah]

[hah' wai]

Hâwî

[HAH' VEE']

[hah' vee]

Hilo

[hee' loh]

[hee' low]

[hi low]

Honoka`a

  • rolling (as stones) bay

[hoh' noh kah' ah]

[hoh noh KAH]

Honoli`i

  • little valley

[hoh' noh lee' ee]

[hoh noh lee']

Ka`û

[kah OO']

[kah oo']
[cow]

Kawaihae

  • the pool of wrath

[kah wai' hae']

[kah wah hai']

Kea`au

[ke (y)ah au']

[kay yow']

Keâhole

  • the âhole fish

[keh (Y)AH' hoh leh]

[keh ah hoh' lay]

Keaukaha

  • the passing current

[keh (y)au' kah hah]

[kyo' kah hah]

Kona

  • leeward

[koh' nah]

[kou' nah]

Lili`uokalani

  • smarting of the high-born one

At the time of Lili`u's birth, her foster mother's aunt, Kînau, was suffering from eye pain; hence the name.

[lee lee oo' (w)oh kah lah nee]

[lee lee oh' kah lah nee]

[Lilly oh kah lanny]

Park in Hilo named for Queen Lili`uokalani (1838-1917), last queen of Hawai`i

Mauna Kea

  • white mountain

[mau' nah keh' (y)ah]

[mah' nah kee' yah]

Nâ`âlehu

  • the volcanic ashes

[NAH' AH' leh hoo]

 

[NAH' leh hoo]

 

Nâpô`opo`o

  • the holes

[NAH' POH' oh poh oh]

[nah POH' POH']

`Opihikâô

  • crowd (gathering) limpets

[oh pee hee
KAH' OH']

[oh pee hee kow']

Pâhoa

  • dagger

[PAH' hoh (w)ah]

[pah hoh' ah]

Pâhala

  • cultivation by burning mulch

[PAH' hah lah]

[pah hah' lah]

Pu`uloa

  • long hill

[poo' oo loh' (w)ah]

[POO' loh ah]

Old name for Queen's Bath, now covered with lava, Puna district

Waiâkea

  • broad waters

[wai AH' keh (y)ah]

[wai kay' ah]

Waiânuenue

  • rainbow (seen in) water

[wai AH' noo (w)eh noo (w)eh]

[wai' nui nui]

Old name for Rainbow Falls / Avenue in Hilo

Waimea

  • reddish water

[wai' meh (y)ah]

[wai mee' ah]

Waipi`o

  • curved water

[wai' pee oh]

[wai pee' yoh]

Some of these place names are ancient, with lost origins
and meanings, and therefore without translations.

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Subtleties:

  • Sound out the diphthongs, which are blended vowel sounds. Hawaiian is not for the "slack jawed". Your mouth must move to sound the second vowel sound!
    • ROUND out those "ou" and "au" sounds. Wrap your mouth around these sounds, e.g., kau is not [kah] and kou is not [koh].
    • STRETCH your mouth to sound the "ai", e.g., wai is not [wah].
    • Resist changing the sounds, e.g., Kawaihae is [kah wai hae], not [kah wai hai].
    • Resist separating the sounds, e.g, Kahului is [kah hoo lui], not [kah hoo loo ee].
  • Especially resist English-izing Hawaiian. Hâna is not "Hannah". Kaua`i is not "cow eye". Honolulu is not "Hon nah lew lew", but more staccato-like, [hoh noh loo loo]. Hawaiian is beautiful in its own right. Let us not "prettify" it to suit the Western ear.
  • When two vowels (which are not diphthongs) are adjacent to one another, there is a subtle "w" or "y" sound which bridges their sounds, e.g., Pâhoa is [PAH' ho (w)ah] and not, [PAH hoh' ah] and Waimea is [wai' meh (y)ah] and not, [wai meh' ah].
  • Watch those `okina, " `", which denote a distinct separation of vowel sounds. Do not blend vowel sounds separated by an `okina, e.g., O`ahu is [oh ah' hoo], not [oh wah' hoo] and Pô`ipu is [POH' ee poo], not [poy' poo].

 

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