Ultimate Hawaii Guide

Hawaiian Language 101

The lingo, the language, and the pidgin dialect.

By Ethan Chung December 20, 2016 Published in the January 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Kevin Whipple

Native Hawaiian has been in danger of extinction since James Cook made first contact in 1778, but a renaissance in the 1970s renewed interest in preserving the language. More commonly spoken is pidgin, a creole language based on English that features words from Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, and other languages. Here are a few common words and phrases to get you started.

‘a‘oleadverb • ah-oh-leh: No. Whatever socks-and-sandals, beach-puking sin you were about to commit, just no.

haolenoun • how-lee: A person not of native Hawaiian descent, a foreigner, a white person. Don’t take offense; it’s no slur.

ni‘eleadjective • nee-eh-lay: Nosy or overly inquisitive. Small islands make for, er, involved neighbors.

all busadjective • ahl buss: Drunk, hammered. Remember how you were on election night? Probably not.

bumbyeadverb • buhm-bi: Later, at another time. When is Bertha going to be done with her digging?

da kineanything • duh kyne: Used in place of a word you can’t remember, or really any word at all. That legal Washington pakalolo, though.

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