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 Creating a glossary of Hawai’ian terms is not a simple process. That is because the Hawai’ian language is made up of root words, and each root word can have several levels of meaning. While each level is related to every other level, the deeper levels of these meanings are usually only comprehensible to a person who is intimately familiar with the ancient Hawai’ian way of looking at life.

That is why close examination will reveal that the Ho’ala Huna definitions for certain words are slightly and sometimes substantially different than those that are presented by traditional Hawai’ian dictionaries.

This glossary begins with a short explanation of how the Hawai’ian language is constructed along with a guide to pronunciation of Hawai’ian words. Our definitions for root words are presented next. This is followed by a glossary of the meanings of certain Hawai’ian words and terms that flow from these definitions.

For common meanings of words, this glossary borrows heavily from the traditional glossary based on sound files of oral translations by Aletha Kaohi and E. Kalani Flores. They possess an in-depth knowledge of Hawaiian culture and historical affairs.

Our glossary of Hawai’ian words is followed by a section which provides Ho’ala Huna definitions for certain English terms. This is necessary because the Ho’ala Huna meanings for words like “love”, “priest”, “God” are quite different than traditional western ways of looking at these things.


Because Hawai’ian remained only a spoken language until writing was brought by the missionaries, the rules of Hawai’ian grammar were derived from the study of speech patterns of the indigenous peoples. Since much of Hawai’ian culture has been lost to modern students, so too is much of the language.

All languages are constructed of significant sounds known as phonemes. Phoneme sounds are classified as “hard sounds” like consonants, and “soft sounds” like vowels.

The Hawai’ian language includes only eight consonants, five short vowels, and five long vowels. Few languages in the world contain so few phonemes. Perhaps that is the reason Hawai’ian has more words with multiple meanings than almost any other language.

Hawai’ian words are of two main types. Content words may occur alone and are usually constructed of root words. Hawai’ian has no tenses and no inflections. Instead, particles (short words like ka, ke, na, nâ, ua, e, I, iâ, ‘o, no, nô) indicate whether the nearby content words are nouns our verbs, whether action is completed or on-going, whether a noun is a subject, object, agent, possessor, or locative. For this reason particles are very important.

Interestingly, the Hawai’ian language has no verbs corresponding to the English ‘to be’ and ‘to have’.

Sentence structure is as follows:

Verb ± subject ± object or other prepositional phrase.

Adjectives follow nouns.

The definite or specific articles (ka or ke in the singular, in the plural) and the indefinite or non-specific article he precede nouns.

Some sentences contain no verb at all. (he kâne au = ‘a man I’).

Note on Orthography

The orthography used in these Hawaiian words includes the appropriate use of glottal stops but unfortunately, not macrons. Macrons are a small horizontal line placed above a letter to indicate that the vowel should be stressed. Because there are no macrons in the ASCII character set, the bent line character (as in â, ê, î, ô, and û) will be used instead of the normal macron.


p, k, h, l, m, n  about the same as in English

w  after i and e is pronounced like a relaxed or lax v;

  after u and o usually like w;

  after a or initially, like w or v.



a  (ah) like a in above

e  (eh) like e in bet

i  (ee) like y in city

o  (oh) like o in sole

u  (oo) like oo in moon

Stressed  (Vowels marked with macrons are somewhat longer than other vowels)

â  (aah) like a in far

ê  (ay) like ay in pay

î  (ee) like ee in seem

ô  (oh) like o in sole

û  (oo) like oo in moon


Dipthongs (Always stressed on the first element, but the second element has more vowel quality and is more distinct than in an English dipthong.)

ei  (ay-ee)

eu (ay-oo)

oi  (oh-ee)

ou (oh-oo)

ai  (aah-ee)

ae (aah-ay)

ao (aah-oh)

au (aah-oo)


Stress is a system that marks one syllable as more prominent than those around it. In Hawai’ian, stress occurs on all vowels marked with macrons. Otherwise, stress is on the next-to-last syllable and alternating preceding syllables of words, except that words containing five syllables without macrons are stressed on the first and fourth syllables. Final stress in a word is usually louder than preceding stress or stresses.

Glottal Stops

Glottal stops are indicated by the character (‘). A glottal stop is similar to the sound between the oh’s in English oh-oh.




(Ah-kah); Shadow image; reflection; also mirror image; body of a baby fish when it is still transparent, glimmer in the night sky just before moonrise; well-worn path; when compounded in a word it can mean brightness and clarity; at a deeper level it can refer to a spiritual pattern around which forms of thought, emotion or matter organizes; spiritual essence that connects things.


(Ah-kah-kah); To be clear or plain, to bring to light.


(Ah-ka-mah-eye); Smart; to be or become wise.


(Ah-koo-ah); Image or idol, spirit, or ghost; an indeterminate type of Divine being, often referred to as a god, goddess; divine, supernatural, or godly; a loving spirit; a life-giving spirit that lives in the light, an attitude that attracts light and life.

Akua aumakua   

(Ah-koo-ah-ah-uuh-ma-koo-ah); Ancestors who have awakened to their Divinity to become gods.


(Ah-lo-ha); Hello, goodbye, love. At a deeper level it is a recognition of another’s Divine status and a commitment to breath the Divine breath together.


(Ah-oh); Light; the earth; the living world. To enlighten or instruct in one’s duty; to bring something hidden into the light of day; the Light — meaning the awareness that accompanies the experiences of Recognition and Understanding.


(Ah-uh-ma-koo-ah); In pre-ali’i times the word meant Heavenly Parents in the sense of a guardian spirit transmitted through a family lineage; utterly trustworthy parental pair; Mother-Father God; the Divine Essence of Love that results from the marriage of Light and Life. In ali’i times the word referred to an ancestral spirit that often took the form of an animal that guarded and protected members of a family line.

Aumakua a ka po   

Hidden ancestors. Ancestors who are unknown because they are no longer remembered. Ancestors of our genetics.

Aumakua a ke a’o  

Ancestors who are remembered. Ancestors of our spirit.


(Ha-ah-ha-ah); The ability to transcend positional thinking. Humility.


A school run by kahuna priests. A place where kahuna priests impart knowledge that leads to the unfolding of wisdom. A place where breath reveals the inner Light of Reality.


The act of a caterpillar crawling on a papaya. A place where immature Divine beings are fed. A place where the first fruits of one’s labor are offered to support the work of spirit. A temple, or monastery where one unites with Divinity.


(Ho-ah-la); That which leads to the light or provides an awakening; that which leads to a Divine Recognition or the experience of a Divine Moment.

Ho’ala Huna   

(Ho-ah-la Hu-nah); That which causes an awakening so that one becomes able to recognize Reality.


(Ho-oh-po-noh-po-noh); The art of healing. The practice of conflict resolution.


(Hoo-nah); A secret; knowledge that is hidden; sacred knowledge; the sacred knowledge of that which is real. The Divine Is-Ness of something.


(Ee-Kay); To see or perceive, to understand

Ike papa’lua   

(Ee-kay-pah-pah-loo-ah); High sight or Eagle Vision meaning the ability to recognize the highest point-of-view.


(Kah-Nay); Male; husband, God of Awareness or Divine or Heavenly Father.


(Koo-pu-nah); Grandparent, ancestor, relative or close friend of the grandparent’s generation, grandaunt, granduncle. Starting point, source; the place where growth starts. Wise elders: elders revered as sources of wisdom; spiritual leaders for their family.


(Kah-uh-la); Prophet or seer. Someone who is born with the ability to recognize spiritual Reality.


(Koo); In pre-ali’i times, referred to the feminine spirit of power. In those days power was seen as the creative power to nurture someone or something into life or cause it to become alive. In post ali’i times, name for the god of war.


(Ku-moo); Rootstock of the family line; master teacher of something.


In pre-ali’i times, referred to the masculine spirit of direction. In those days power was seen as the creative power to nurture someone or something into life or cause it to become alive. In post ali’i times, name for the god of war.


(Mah-ka-hee-kee); New year festival; anciently, a festival honoring the return of Lono.


(Mah-loo); A shield or cover. A mask. That which is very subtle; a life-taking spirit that lives in the darkness of unconsciousness, a bad attitude that brings pain into a person's life.


(O-ha-nah); Family group; spiritual family; people who share the same perspectives about life.

Pili kahuna  

(Pee-lee kah-hoo-nah) Personal priesthood.

Po’ai lele aloha   

(Po-ah-ey lay-lay ah-lo-ha) Name for ancient Hawai’ian altar. Roughly translated, these words mean “a place to join the circle of those who breathe the one Divine breath”.


(Po); Night; darkness as in darkness of the womb; time for inward spiritual reflection to unlock life energy.


(Wah-hee-nay); Female; wife; God of Power or Divine or Heavenly Mother.


‘Amama, ua noa lele wale

The kapu is finished, the words fly free.

‘A ‘ohe loa’a I ka nohu wale

Nothing is learned by doing nothing.

E Wehe I ka umauma I akea

Open the chest wide.

He ali’i ka la’i, he haku na ke aloha

Peace is chief, the lord of love.  May peace and love be our guide and our purpose as we healing work today.

He ‘onipa’a ka ‘oia’i’o 

The essence of truth does not change


Wake up!

Makemake au e akamai oukou a pau

I pray that you may all become wise

‘O ke aka ka ‘oukou, e ke akua, ‘o ka ‘i’o ka makou

Yours is the essence, O god, ours the material part.




 Any creation that has meaning in the sense that it unlocks Divine Recogniton.

Art Form  

A method of arranging simpler elements to create deeper meaning.

Circle of Love  

The perfect marriage of Life and Light that contains both and is bigger than either.


Refers to the Divine essence of a thing. That which is Divine is understood to be a part of and made from the essence of the ‘ALL THAT IS’ that is God.


An experience of the absence of all fear which results in the complete flow of life energy experienced as total ecstasy in a place of perfect peace.


The ability to be flexible in perspective. To be able to step into another’s shoes so one can see the world from another’s point-of-view. To suspend one’s need to be ‘right’.


A person (no matter how educated) who has become so indoctrinated into some sort of ideology, that they have lost all common sense.


The ALL THAT IS that contains all dimensions of the World of Form and World of Spirit. The dimension of Consciousness that contains time and is not contained by time. The ALL THAT IS that is Perfect, Loving, and totally Aware.


To DO that which is in the highest and best interests of all involved. To live in the condition of harmony with the Circle of Life. The marriage of Life and Light.


What happens when Recognition becomes so Real that is changes our experience of our world.


The result of Ike Papalua, the ability to see things in their full and perfect place in the Circle of Life. This permits access to Divine experience of self-awareness we call recognition, or the ability to re-know or re-member something.