Part of the My Guide Network

Change Destination

Language Basics

Hawaiian and English are the official languages of the Islands. However, Pidgin is a local dialect that is commonly spoken among the locals. Pidgin is derived from English, Hawaiian, Japanese, and several other Asian dialects. Common words include 'da kine' meaning 'the kind' and 'brah' meaning 'brother or friend.'

You’ll notice that many of the street signs, beaches, and town names are Hawaiian names, so having a basic understanding can help you navigate the islands. There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian language, all five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and seven consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w), which is probably why names repeat themselves so often. Example Like-Like Highway (pronounced Lee-Kee Lee-Kee not like like).

Letter Pronounced Example
A ah far
E ey bet
I ee see
O oh boat
U oo moon

Each vowel in a word is usually pronounced separately and each consonant has the same sound as in English. Once exception is W, which is pronounced like a V when preceded by an e or i. For example, Haleiwa is pronounce holly – Evuh.

You may also notice a single apostrophe inserted in odd places. This is actually an ‘okina and is considered a consonant. You can hear a great example of the ‘okina when you pronounce oh’oh. That half second pause between the oh’s is the ‘okina. In fact, Hawaii is actually spelled Hawai’i. Can you hear the ‘okina now?

Some common words to help you through your visit.

Aloha Hello, Goodbye, Welcome, Love
Mahalo Thank you
Aole No
Heiau Hawaiian temple
Kapu Sacred, forbidden, taboo
Kama’aina Local or current resident
Hono Harbor
Kane A man
Wahine Female or Woman
Moana The ocean
Makai Toward the sea
Mauka Towards the mountains
Malihini Newcomer to the Islands
Ohana Family or relative
Ono Delicious
Pupu Hors d’oeuvres or appetizers

If you are interested in learning Hawaiian before your vacation, or just for fun, consider subscribing to The Word Hawaiian, teaching one fun and relevant Hawaiian word per day!

Create & Share Your Own 'My Guide to Hawaii'

Create your own guide of favourite 'must see' places

Earn your Local Expert badge by Sharing your guides with others

Get your guide seen by submitting it to the Featured Guides section

View All

Featured Guides

Part of the My Guide Network

My Guide Hawaii is part of the global My Guide Network of Online & Mobile travel guides.

We are now in 100+ Destinations and Growing. If you are interested in becoming a local travel partner and would like to find out more then click for more info about our Website Business Opportunity.

Nearby Destinations

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more