This glossary was compiled to furnish you with a quick alphabetical reference to the Hawaiian words and phrases used throughout the site.
My goal has been to keep this as short as possible: It isn’t a primer on the Hawaiian language, but a primer on the vocabulary chosen for Managing with Aloha in particular, and as a values-based philosophy. All cultures have something we call kaona, “fewer words, more meaning.” Words used in that culture have hidden meanings or concealed references which aren’t intended to be secretive, but function as very cool shortcuts within an insider’s language— coupled with Sense of Place, kaona becomes integral part of a community’s “Language of We.” Read more at Managing with Aloha’s Lexicon Morphology.
What I have NOT duplicated here are the labels for our 19 Hawaiian values since they are already featured on the secondary navigation bar of each page. If you are new to Managing with Aloha, the 19 Values of Aloha are our “business speak” and I encourage you to concentrate your learning there, keeping this page in mind purely as a reference listing if ever you should need it.
Please kokua, and help me as a volunteer editor! Let me know if I have used a Hawaiian word elsewhere on the site, and have forgotten to list it here.
This glossary has been formatted with the proper use of Hawaiian diacritical marks, however please note that they may not display accurately in all digital formats, and may appear as standard text in some readers.
‘Āina. Land, earth. ‘Āina is a very elemental concept in MWA, relating to Key Concept 8: Sense of Place.
Alaka‘i ka ‘ike. Guides of learning, teachers. ‘Ike is the Hawaiian word for knowledge. Keep Alaka‘i in mind as the value of leadership.
Aloha ‘āina. A very old concept in Hawaii meaning love of the land, and considered to include the whole of our environment, i.e. land, ocean, atmosphere. Also used for the love of one’s country and patriotism.
Ha‘aheo. The more positive character of pride, as in pride for the accomplishments of others. Unselfish pride. (See the value of Ha‘aha‘a, and see Ho‘okano below).
Hana. Work. See the value of Ho‘ohana.
Hana ‘eleau. Literally, “work in a period of darkness.” We use the phrase to describe the work which needs to be more intentionally done, or focused on for better clarity, so that no Hana ‘eleau shadows will cloud it over.
Hapa. A portion, part or fragment of something. We often use hapa Hawaiian verbiage in MWA, part Hawaiian, part English (see Nalu, and “Nalu it” below) because we choose strong vocabulary for its intention over grammatical language correctness.
Hāpai. As a verb: to carry or bear, to lift, hold up and support. Hāpai is most often used as the word for pregnancy.
Hau‘oli‘oli. Joy, wonder and delight.
Hau‘oli lā hānau. Happy birthday. Rare in that this one is pretty literal! Happy (hau‘oli) day (lā) of your birth (hānau)
Hō‘imi. To look for better and for best. To have positive expectancy, and be optimistic.
Holomua. Improvement or progress. Many will use this word for success in common usage, but in MWA we are referring to the striving for it. See the values of Kūlia i ka nu‘u and Pono: Pono is the word chosen when complete success is acknowledged.
Ho‘o. A prefix that brings active causation and transition to the base word that follows it; in the Hawaiian language it turns nouns into verbs. We’ll often say “Ho‘o!” as an encouragement, meaning “Make it happen!”
Ho‘ohiki. Keeping promises.
Ho‘okano. Negative pride: being haughty and full of conceit and arrogance. Having disdain of others, insolent, vain. (See the value of Ha‘aha‘a, and see Ha‘aheo above).
Ho‘olōkahi. To bring about unity, to make things peaceful and harmonious. See the value of Lōkahi, and see Mana‘o lōkahi below).
Ho‘omaha. Maha is rest, and see Ho‘o above. Ho‘omaha is our name for the holiday hiatus given to all in my Say Leadership Coaching ‘Ohana in Business, and it offers a coaching: Reflect on the past year (what worked, what didn’t), make ‘keeper’ decisions, and prepare in the best possible way (‘Imi ola) for the new year to come.
Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i. To visit, or to have visiting time.
Ho‘oponopono. An open discussion process in the Hawaiian culture that deals with problems and unpleasantness, seeking to make things right by achieving the value of Pono.
‘Imi. To look for, hunt, search, seek. See Hō‘imi.
I mua! An encouragement, meaning “Go forward!” and/or “Let’s get this done!” with a right now sense of urgency.
Ka‘ana like. To share or to divide. Like (pronounced lee-kay) is alike, same, similar, or mutual.
Kama‘āina. A person who is native born in Hawaii, however not of Hawaiian blood. Literally, the words translate to land child and imply a sense of responsibility: If you have chosen to live in a place, you are of that place and charged with caring for it (See the value of Mālama).
Kaona. Hidden meaning, or concealed reference. Most commonly used in poetry and in language.
Kēia lā. Today. This is a phrase of opportunity, and full presence in the moment.
Koa. Bravery and Courage:
“In a society whose chiefs were trained in the arts of fighting from childhood, and who proved their mettle on the battlefields, physical courage can be expected as a badge of leadership. But courage has two sides: the physical, and the nonphysical, that is, the emotional, moral, or spiritual. Opposition to a hero comes in many different forms.” —Dr. George Kanahele, explaining how Ha‘aha‘a was interpreted by the ali‘i (ruling chiefs) within Alaka‘i, their leadership of the Hawaiian people.
Kokua. Help, both as noun and as verb.
Kūlia. To try, to strive. Spoken to another, Kūlia is a prompting, and a word of encouragement. See the value of Kūlia i ka nu‘u.
Kukupa‘u. Literally, “with great enthusiasm” and a character trait greatly admired amongst MWA practitioners.
Kūpono. Many consider this the value of integrity (in MWA we simply use Pono). Kū means in a state of, or to stand up for, with Pono meaning rectitude, uprightness and goodness. As Dr. George Kanahele would explain, “According to the Hawaiian way of thinking, there is little difference between being honest, upright, good, fair, or worthy.”
Kupuna. An elder.
Kūpuna. The plural form of Kupuna.
Laulima. Many hands. A word often used when discussing cooperation and Lōkahi. Joint action.
Lokomaika‘i. Literally, “the generosity of good heart” and often considered the value of generosity. In MWA we weave Lokomaika‘i into the value of Ho‘okipa, hospitality.
Ma‘alahi. A word we’ll often use to describe the feeling of contentment and personal well-being associated with the value of Pono. Ma‘alahi is “a pervasive persuasion toward calm, peace, and serenity.”
Mahalo nui loa. Said to mean “Thank you very much.” Nui is big, large, or grand, and loa is the word for long.
Maika‘i. Good. Commonly spoken it will mean “Okay” but implying the satisfaction of goodness as opposed to any doubtful agreement.
Mālamalama. Light of knowledge, clarity of thinking or explanation, enlightenment; shining, radiant, clear.
Mālama ka po‘e. Care for one’s people. This is both charge and calling of the Alaka‘i Manager in Managing with Aloha.
Mana‘o. One’s thoughts and beliefs that have become what is true for them, serving to empower them and give them certainty and conviction.
Mana‘o lōkahi. Unanimous. Consider the meanings of mana‘o and lōkahi separately for a moment: This is convicted unity, and not just consensus.
Mana‘o pu‘u wai. Desires of the heart; what the heart wants.
Mea Ho‘okipa. Host or hostess. A person offering the utmost in hospitality.
Mo‘o ‘ōlelo. Succession of talk; all stories of old Hawai‘i were oral and not written, and mo‘o ‘ōlelo describes how they were verbally composed, from person to person, and conversation to conversation. Mo‘ōlelo is the result: a story, tale, myth, history, tradition, literature, legend, journal, log, yarn, fable, essay, chronicle, record, article, minutes of a meeting.
Na‘au. The na‘au are the guts, intestines, and the word is also used to mean instinct, a person’s gut-level feelings and intuition.
Na‘auao. Intelligence and wisdom: Na‘auao combines na‘au, mind, and ao, or daylight. Literally it means the daylight mind, or more appropriately, the enlightened mind.
Nalu. Surf, the waves of the ocean. “Nalu it” means “go with the flow.”
Ola. Life, health, well-being.
‘Ōlelo. Language, speech, spoken word. To talk.
‘Olu‘olu. Pleasant and nice, agreeable, gracious.
Pa‘ahana. Hard work requiring diligence and perseverance.
Pau. Finished. An ending.
Pū‘olo mea maika‘i. Takeaways and keepers. Literally, this is “a bundle of good things” you return home with. Things you feel are gifts (see Maika‘i).
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