Friday, August 14, 2009


nvt. to glance, look quickly; glance

There are so many intricacies in the Hawaiian language that are being overlooked today, despite our efforts of revitalization. Most people who learn the language today use nānā for the generic word "look." But there are other words to describe different ways to look. One of these is ʻalawa, or ʻalaʻalawa. to glance or look quickly.

The following 'ōlelo no'eau gives a good picture of what ʻalawa means. And it also shows the poetic adeptness of the Hawaiians. Why come out and say there's a thief in the midst when you can make reference to something in nature and in that way not be blamed outright for the insult! How clever!

Pueo maka 'ala'alawa. - Owl with eyes glancing here and there (said of one
who looks about to see what he can steal).

You've probably also heard ʻalawa used in a popular song:

ʻAlawa iho 'oe ma ka 'ao'ao, hū ana ka makani hele uluulu (from Holoholo Ka'a) - You glance downward on the side, the strong winds are blowing

If you are a Hawaiian language speaker, look up other ways to "look" and
help to make these words come alive, to keep the essence pure in our

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