We often hear aliʻi in conjunction with pageants and other places where our chiefs are portrayed. Yes, aliʻi means “chief, chiefess, officer, ruler, monarch, king, queen.” And aliʻi nui then is the “High Chief.” Now days we often hear mōʻī for king, but he was an aliʻi nui in the old days.
If you listen to the weather forecasts, you will often hear the name ʻAlenuihāhā, our Hawaiian word for today. It is the name of the channel between Hawaiʻi and Maui, and is often mispronounced. It means “great billows smashing.”
Wai means “water.” Wai is a very important thing to Hawaiians, and for that reason is included in many names – both place names, such as Waimānalo, Waikīkī, and Waiehu. And in many family and given names. Wai can be used for any type of liquid except sea water.
Puaʻa means “pig, swine, hog, pork.” And although it is a commonly used Hawaiian word, even in English conversation, it is often mispronounced. Say puaʻa as in kamapuaʻa. Puʻa is also another pronunciation you might hear, especially among native speakers.
Wai wai means “goods, property, assets, valuables, value, worth, wealth.” We most often hear wai wai to mean “rich, wealth, or value,” as in the popular song “Iesū me ke kanaka wai wai,” – Jesus and the Rich Man – written by Johnny Almeida.
One of the Hawaiian words first learned by most non-Hawaiians is wahine for “woman.” Kāne for “man” and wahine for “woman” are often painted on restroom doors. It also means “lady, wife, female, queen in a deck of cards” and even femininity.
Paʻa is a very commonly used word that can mean “firm, solid, tight, adhering, durable, fast, fixed, stuck, secure, closed,” and so much more. Paʻa ā paʻa means held fast, so hoʻo paʻa means to make fast, to bind.
Kāne is the Hawaiian word for “man.” You see this often in names like Kāneʻohe, which means “bamboo man,” and in many family names as well. It is also used for “male, husband, male sweetheart, and masculine.”
Most people who live in Hawaiʻi know what a maile lei is, but it is one of those Hawaiian words that is all too often mispronounced. Maile is a native twining shrub with shiny, fragrant leaves, used for decorations and lei, especially on important occasions. Maile is pronounced “mai-lei,” not to be confused with the Leeward Oʻahu community called Māʻili.
We used to see so many signs that read “kapu” that people joked about Kapu being a Hawaiian who owned all that land. Actually, kapu, means taboo, prohibition, or even sacredness, or forbidden. And yes, on those signs it has come to mean “keep out.”
Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is the name of our state, Hawaiʻi. It is pronounced either as “Hawaiʻi” or “Havaiʻi.” Yes, either is okay. Language experts say you can pronounce it with a “w” or a “v” if that sound follows an “a.”
Puakō is the name of a place on the Big Island, a beautiful place on the Kohala Coast where some 3,000 petroglyphs have been found. It means sugar cane blossom. “Pua”is blossom and the modifier “kō” means sugar cane.
Our Hawaiian word for today, hāpai, is one most people in Hawaiʻi already know and use, even in English conversation. It means to carry, and is most often used to describe a woman who is expecting a baby. It also means “to lift, raise, hoist, hold up, or support.”
Although it is often mispronounced, muʻumuʻu is one of the best known of Hawaiian words. It means “cut off, shortened,” and is the name so often given to a large fitting gown, because the yoke was often missing, and the sleeves short. It's first meaning, however, is “amputated, maimed.”