Hawaiian Words Everyone Should Know Before Buying A Home On Kauai

The Garden Island of Kauai, as well as the rest of the islands, has a local language all its own. A form of “Pidgin” English (pronounced pid-jin) and old Hawaiian, can be heard across the island. Pidgin is a simplified version of a language that has developed as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a common language. This began during the sugar plantation era when multiple cultures were working together in the fields.

If you’re planning on buying a home on the island, here are some words to help you better understand your investment and the Hawaiian culture itself.

Words You Will Hear in Hawaiian Real Estate:


kukuiula luxury real estate

Ohana – Family, relative, kin group, related. Many homes on the island offer Ohana units, which are essentially guest homes.

Hale – House, building.

Makai – Toward the ocean. A good thing to know when you’re checking out locations.

Mauka – Inland, upland, towards the mountains.

Lanai – A porch, patio or balcony.

Keiki – Child, offspring, children. Kauai is exceptionally Keiki friendly with plenty of “Keiki beaches” and kid-friendly activities.

Everyday Words:


kukuiula poke

Auntie, Uncle – While these are traditionally English words, women and men are referred to as “auntie” and “uncle” regardless of relation. It is a sign of respect and affection.

‘Aina – Land

Hana – Work

Pau – Finished, ended, all done. Ready for a round of golf after a long week of Hana? You’re Pau and ready to hit the green.

Choke – A large amount of. There were choke fish in the water.

P.O.G. – Passion, Orange, Guava Juice. You probably enjoyed it on your plane ride over!

Taro – A staple in the Hawaiian diet, Taro is a tuber root.

Poi – A paste made from pounded Taro root. It is a traditional part of native Hawaiian cuisine and can be found in almost every grocery store on the island.

Poke – Raw fish in a delicious sauce. Usually fresh, cubed Ahi in teriyaki, wasabi cream or soy sauce and served with white rice.

Dakine – Similar to a “Whatchamacallit”. This word represents whatever you would like, usually said when you can’t remember exactly what you were trying to say. Did you see they have Dakine on sale at the store?

Howzit – How’s it going?

Grinds – Food

Ono – Good, delicious, tasty (often followed by Grinds).

Honu – Green sea turtle. You will see many of these swimming along the clear shores of Kauai!

Hoku – Star

Malasada – Hawaiian doughnut, usually found at fun gatherings.

Musubi – Spam wrapped in rice and seaweed.

Wahine – Woman, women.

Kane: Man, men.

Mele Kalikimaka – Merry Christmas!

Menehune – Legendary race of small people believed to have worked during the night building roads, fish ponds and temples.

Mahalo – Thank you very much.

Aloha – Love, hello, goodbye, greeting, affection, salutation.

Last But Not Least:


the spa at kukuiula


KuKui`ula – KuKui`ula comes from two words: KuKui (or candlenut) and `ula (red glow).

In ancient Hawai`i, kukui was a measure of time. The nuts were used to produce light – their seeds, with high oil content, burned brightly and reliably. Kukui would be lined up on a coconut frond, and as one burned another would be lit – every 15 minutes or so. The nut was also burned in coconut shells or a lava stone oil lamp to bring fisherman home from the sea.

Light is but one use of the kukui.So essential was the nut it was also used as ink, varnish, medicine, dye and wood for canoes. Today it is Hawaii’s state tree.

An urn that held kukui oil still stands at Kukui`ula.In a protected sacred area called a heiau, it is thought that at one time, ceremonial urns – one to the south of present-day Kukui`ula and one north of the property in Kalaheo – were lit to guide voyageurs returning from Tahiti. When you visit Kukui`ula, the sense of light and finding home will touch you too.