Friday, October 30, 2009


Rot, stench, rottenness; to stink; putrid, spoiled, rotten, foul, decomposed.

Last weekend as I went for my weekend walk along the dairy road up Paʻauilo, there was a definite pilau smell along the road.  It began abruptly and ended abruptly.  It was so pilau I immediately put my hand up to cover my now. Major pilau.  My eyes scanned the horizon searching for a cow with four feet up in the air.  That pilau smell was definitely a decomposed animal of some sort.  Pilau.  It's that odor that your nose really can't take.  You want to pinch your nostrils together, put your shirt up over your nose, hold your breath all together. That rotting, stinking stench.  Think of decomposition of the worst sort.

Kü ka pilau - the stench rises

Maka pilau - rotten eyes, one with rotten eyes, a ghost.

Make pilau - complete defeat in a game

Do you have a pilau story? Do you remember hearing and using the word pilau when you were growing up?  My grandma and my dad used it a lot. Must have had plenty stink stuff around!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009


1.  The tropic or boatswain bird, particularly the white-tailed tropic bird which inhabits cliffs of the high islands.  
2.  a variety of banana.  
3.  A variety of taro.  
4.  A snapper, probably onaga.  
5. A variety of sweet potato.

You will find other birds which may have a counterpart, either in the ocean or on land.  Koaʻe is just one fine example.  I saw many koaʻe flying in Borabora when I went there a few years ago.  They are a beautiful, sleek bird. There are koaʻe kea (white koa'e) and koaʻe ʻula (red-tailed).   I am particularly fond of the koaʻe because the Hāmākua coast of Hawai'i island is known poetically as ka pali lele koaʻe, or the cliff where tropic birds fly.

He koaʻe, manu o ka pali kahakō - It is the koaʻe, bird of the sheer cliffs (An expression of admiration for an outstanding person.  The koa'e build their nests on cliffs.)

'Ōlelo ke kupa o ka 'āina ua mālie; ua au koaʻe - The natives of the land declare that the weather is calm when the tropic bird travels afar.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Scattered, littered disheveled; disorder, untidiness, mess, chaos.

     Mōkākī ko'u hale!  My house is a MESS!  Okay, now you know what generated today's word.

    In English when something is messy, we might want to say it's dirty or lepo, but really, that's not the case (unless you live in Mākaha next to the highway, with lots of louvered windows that have to stay open because it's so hot, then it IS lepo!).  We might want to say kāpulu which means the same as mōkākī and more.  But generally speaking, if your house is in need of some tidying up, it's mōkākī.  If it's downright disgusting (and mine is bordering that state) then it's kāpulu.

'A'ole mōkākī kona hale - Her house is not untidy.

'A'ole au makemake i ka lumi mōkākī - I don't like a messy room.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


1.  Loss, damage; out of luck; vain.  
2.  Bog, swamp, mire, slough; sunken, sinking, to settle, as earth.

Those of you familiar with this word surely know it wasn't commonly used to refer to #2 above.  More likely it was used in the context of #1, that is, when something is "waste time."  Pohō.  Neva mind.  Now this is a word that I always heard, especially from my dad.  It hasn't lost its steam, like many other Hawaiian words that were used a lot in small kid time.  Not every Hawaiian word can stand on its own in the midst of an English sentence.  Pohō definitely can.

"Pohō help you guys!"  "Das pohō already."  "Pohō clean dis yard wit all da weeds!"

Here's an interesting 'ōlelo no'eau using pohō:

Pohō i ka mālama i ko ha'i keakea!
A waste of effort to take care of someone else's semen!
(Usually said in anger by one who cares for the children of another.  Also expressed "Pohō i ka mālama i ko ha'i kūkae!"  A waste of effort to take care of someone else's excreta.

Well, hopefully all is not pohō in today's word!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Piece labor, pay by the job rather than according to time, as on sugar plantations; used in pidgin for any work that everyone should pitch in gladly to finish; contract labor.

        The word was brought to my attention by a very dear friend of mine, Lisa Wood. She was gathering together common phrases and words used in ranching and this is a word that she heard being used by the cattlemen many times.

        Ukupau is comprised of two words: uku=to pay, and pau=finished.  Finished pay. In other words, you are paid by the job, much like the plantation workers who had to clear out a certain section of land before getting paid, or complete a certain task, whether it took them all day or two days. This enticed the workers to work as hard and as fast as they could!

Hana kākou a ukupau - We work until the task is completed.

Friday, October 23, 2009



When my family rides in the car together, everyone has their own cell phones, except of course the moʻopuna.  The age of technology is upon us.   Now our cell phones, instead of just making and receiving calls, allow us to text one another, take and send photos and videos, search on the internet, play games and much more.
        Kelepona is the transliteration of the English word telephone.  Along the lines of "tele" communication we also have:

kelepona lawe lima - cordless phone (phone to take by hand)
kelepaʻi - fax phone (kele=tele; pa'i=print)
kelekaʻaʻike - telecommunication (ka'a'ike-transferred knowledge)
keleō - beeper/pager (ö=tinkling, tolling or chime of a bell)
kelulā - cellular

Thursday, October 22, 2009


1.  Oven, baking pan; to roast, bake; roasted. 
2. To open the mouth, as though to speak. 
3. Female mahimahi fish. 
4. Concave. 
5. small adze. 
6. Space between opposing armies where sacrifices were offered; preparations for war; first men killed in war.

    Here's a word you can use everyday, especially those who cook in the kitchen.  So go and make a post-it note, stick it on the 'oma, and, starting today, begin using
'oma instead of oven!  I'm sure the people in your house will not get it confused with the other meanings of 'oma. After all I'm sure there are no wars in your household (well, not of the magnitude where sacrifices are offered).

pelehū 'oma - roast turkey

'oma wawe - microwave oven (wawe=quick)

Mākaukau ka 'oma - The oven is ready.

Wela ka 'oma - The oven is hot.

E ho'ohana i ka 'oma wawe - Use the microwave oven.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



Now in English, the world of sheep is quite extensive.  I mean how many of you know the real difference between a lamb, sheep, and mutton?  But in Hawaiian there's one word for all of these and that word is hipa.  Though hipa are being raised on the different islands, the only island where you may find wild sheep and mouflon (a relative of hipa) is on Hawai'i Island.  Unfortunately these cutie animals are quite destructive to native growth (particularly the mamane trees, one of my favorites).  In 1980 the Sierra Club won a lawsuit which prompted the state to eliminate most wild hipa from Mauna Kea.  Have you ever saw that horrible gorse that has devastated the upper slopes of Mauna Kea, near Hakalau?  It's the most awful looking plant, with horrible thick long spines that has ruined the landscape and killed everything in its way.  I do believe it was the hipa that was brought in by Parker Ranch (perhaps from New Zealand) that spread this seed (it was stuck in their thick wool) on those upper slopes.

Kahuhipa - Shepherd (sheep guardian)

hulu hipa - wool (sheep fur)

'ili hipa - sheepskin

'īlio kia'i hipa - sheep dog

Iesū nō ke kahuhipa - Jesus is the shepherd

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


1. Dog. 
2. A generic term for foreign quadruped.  
3. Cloud 
4. Tie beam in a house, brace that holds rafter to crossbeam. 
5. A seaweed


Though there are five different meanings, the most common is the first one, dog.

    Polynesians brought with them to these islands a small ʻīlio that was primarily used as a food source, sometimes as a sacrifice and also as pets.  These first "four legged settlers" no longer exist in their pure state as inter-breeding has thinned out their bloodline.  It is hard for some to fathom that Hawaiians ate ʻīlio but, hey, I hear they are low in fat and quite good tasting.  I will take their word for it, just like frog legs, I'm sure.  Some accounts say that women were not allowed to eat ʻīlio but I'm not sure about that.  Below are some ʻīlio terms:

ʻīlio pulu - bulldog

ʻīlio mo'o - brindled dog

ʻīlio hahai - greyhound (chasing dog)

ʻīlio hahai manu - bird dog (bird chasing dog)

He ʻīlio ka'u - I have a dog

'a'ohe a'u ʻīlio - I don't have any dogs

'ai nō ka 'īlio i kona lua'i
a dog eats his own vomit
 (Said of one who says nasty things of others and then has those very things happen to himself)

Monday, October 19, 2009


1.  Hawaiian pearl oyster. 
2. feelers of an insect, as of an ant. 
3. a leafless plant, also called moa (Psilotum).
4. a kind of tapa. 
5. body depression; eyeball. 
6. lower part of an adze. 
7. beef, cattle, ox.

I am on an animal theme with todayʻs Hawaiian word.  

Pipi most often refers to beef, cattle or ox.  In fact, the word pipi is also found in older palapala, or documents, written as bipi.  It comes directly from the English word beef.  And since we only get beef from cattle it makes sense that pipi refers to cattle.

Do you like to eat pipi kaula?  That is our local beef jerky.  Literally this word means "rope beef."

pipi wahine - cow (female beef)

pipi waiū - dairy cow (milk beef)

pipi kāne - bull (male beef)

pipi laho - bull (laho refers to scrotum and when used with animal words it means "male")

pipi keiki - calf

He pipi kaulana 'o Lani Moo - Lani Moo was a famous cow.

Nui ka pipi ma Waimea - There is a lot of beef/cattle in Waimea.

Friday, October 16, 2009


1.  pack, knapsack carried on the back.  runners, as on a vine; tentacles.

    In English we refer to the tentacles of an octopus (or a squid) as legs.  In Hawaiian they are not legs.  They are 'awe'awe.  Interestingly, this is the same word used for the rawhide twine on a saddle.  It's the rigging that attaches the saddle to the cinch.  And there is some resemblence between the tentacle and the twine, particularly when it is braided and especially when there are several braids.

    This word also refers to carrying on the back,like a backpack, which is known as an 'eke hā'awe or pāiki hā'awe.

'Ewalu 'awe'awe o ka he'e - an octopus has 8 tentacles.

Maika'i ka 'awe'awe o ka noholio - The 'awe'awe of the saddle is good.

He 'awe'awe ko ka 'uala - The sweet potatoes have runners.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


1.  bottle gourd. 
2. watermelon 
3. general name for vessel or container. 
4. drum consisting of a single gourd or made of two large gourds joined together. 
5. Crown of a hat.

    Ipu are most visible in hula.  When dancing the ancient style of hula (hula 'ōlapa), usually the dancing is accompanied with an ipu to help keep rhythm or beat while the ho'opa'a (the chanter) chants the mele.  This style of hula is termed hula 'ala'apapa.  This is hula accompanied by an ipu.  In most cases the ho'opa'a uses an ipu heke or a double gourd (this is actually two ipu glued together).  This is in contrast to the ipu heke 'ole  or single gourd ipu which is used more for the hula 'auana or modern type hula.

    Since ipu was also used as a container for water, food, or supplies, containers are also known as ipu today, even if it is not made from an ipu.  Ipu is also the general term for watermelon, sometimes followed by another word to be more specific:

ipu 'ai waha - watermelon (ipu you eat with your mouth)

ipu wai - watermelon (water ipu)

ipu haole - watermelon (foreign ipu)

ipu 'ai maka - watermelon (ipu eaten raw)

ka ipu o ka 'ike
 a container of knowledge
 (a learned person)

Got an ipu comment or question? Press on comments and type away! I LOVE COMMENTS! It keeps me going. Day after day after day. Having a one way conversation is NOT fun. Part of the blogging beauty is the ability to "converse".

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Falling; scattered, as rain, tears, grain; crumbling, as the earth; dilapidated; to shed, as a dog's hair.

As I was walking yesterday morning on our country road, I could see the bright red stamens of the lehua blossoms scattered on the road.  I wish everyone could bask in that beauty.  On O'ahu it's hard enough to find a single tree, let alone a forest vibrant with the lehua 'ula'ula (red lehua) and lehua mamo (yellow lehua).  The word used to describe the falling of these stamens is helele'i.  Hawaiian language learners usually use the generic word hā'ule when describing something that is falling.  But there are many words to describe how something falls.  Helele'i is one of them.  When flowers fall from a tree, that is helele'i.  When rain falls from the heavens, that is helele'i.  When tears fall from the eyes, that is helele'i.  And just knowing that gives helele'i a whole different feeling to it when using it.  We are so used to generic words as language learners and as speakers that we forget the intricacies of ALL languages.

"Helele'i pua i ke kai"... - Flowers falling into the ocean (from Ka Wai Lehua by Frank Hewett)

Ua helele'i iho kona waimaka i ka papalina - her tears fell to her cheeks.

Ke helele'i nei ka hulu o ka 'īlio - The dog's fur is shedding.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Spouses sharing a spouse, as two husbands of a wife, or two wives of a husband.

Today's word, like yesterday's, is not something that we typically practice today (not in Hawai'i, at least!). Yesterday's word, po'olua, referred to a child who had two fathers.  Today's word, punalua, refers to the relationship between two husbands or two wives who share the same spouse.

Hawaiians, back in the pre-missionary days (and even in the early years after their arrival in 1820) practiced polygamy. A husband could have many wives and a wife could have many husbands.  This was more prevalent among the ali'i (chiefly) class.  Kamehameha had many wives.  The two most well known are Ka'ahumanu and Keōpūolani.  They were punalua to each other since they both shared the same husband.   Polygamy wasn't practiced for the fun of it.  It was more for social ranking (by having children with Keōpūolani, a very sacred ali'i, Kamehameha I assured the continuation of the monarchy by his children) and economics.  A wife may ask her husband to take her widowed sister as a wife so that there would be a man and a family to care for her.

For whatever reason, it was uncommon for punalua to be jealous of one another.  There are some stories/legends that tell of a jealous punalua and doom being the outcome of a jealous rage.

In modern day Hawaiʻi, I know of one punalua relationship (this was years ago) and I am wondering about another. I am sure it happens here in our own islands, along with all of the other "out of the norm" relationships out there. To each his (or her) own. I do not sit in judgment, lest I be judged.

'O Ka'ahumanu ka punalua o Keōpūolani - Ka'ahumanu was the punalua of Keōpūolani.
'O wai kona punalua? - Who is his punalua?

Monday, October 12, 2009


Child sired by other than the husband, but accepted by both husband and sire.

In other words, mom went out and had a child by someone else but husband is okay with it.  Doesn't happen a lot today (although I have heard instances of it happening) but I think it was a more common happening in traditional Hawai'i. A poʻolua child was lucky in the sense that it increased the number of relatives of the child (related to mom's family, dad's family, and biological father's family) and if he was aliʻi then it assured loyalty to him as kinsmen.

Poʻolua literally means "two heads" and the best example of a poʻolua child is Kamehameha I.  His mother was Keku'iapoiwa and her husband was Keōuakupuapāikalaninui.  Many historians believe that Keku'iapoiwa had a liaison with Kahekilinui'ahumanu (ruler of Maui) and from this union was born Kamehameha Pai'ea (otherwise known as Kamehameha the Great).  Therefore, though Kahekili was thought to be his biological father, he was raised by his parents, Keku'iapoiwa and Keōua.

Now one must not frown upon this as being unacceptable behavior for Hawaiians. After all, they had a very intricate social system, practiced polygamy, had a matrilineal society and a monarchy.  They had a very detailed kapu system.  They had it all under control.  All the fathers and mothers took responsibility for their offspring, cared for them, taught them.

He po'olua 'o Kamehameha I - Kamehameha I is a po'olua child

Friday, October 9, 2009


1. earthquake, tremor. 
2. light porous stone or pumice, as used for polishing canoes or for scraping off hair of pig or dog to be roasted.

In light of the ōlaʻi that have taken place in the Pacific Ocean recently, perhaps you can find some use of today's word in your daily practice.  Ōlaʻi (with a macron over the o for stress) is an old word, as ōlaʻi are not a new phenomenon to Hawaiians.  Many ōlaʻi occur in our islands, particularly because of the activity generated by the still active volcano on Hawai'i Island.  I find it particularly interesting this word has a smaller word in it, la'i, that actually means calm or peaceful.  Perhaps this refers to the calmness that follows an earthquake, when you experience it.  I'm only speculating and using this connection as a tool to help me better remember the ōlaʻi.  As we make connections to certain words, that's how we remember them, right?

Ōla'i ikaika loa i 'ike 'ole 'ia kona lua - very strong earthquake, the like of which had never been seen before.

Halulu ka honua i ka ōla'i ē - The earth resounds because of the earthquake (from a chant by Edith Kanaka'ole)

Nei ka honua, he ōlaʻi ia
When the earth trembles, it is an earthquake.
(We know what it is by what it does)

Ua loa'a ʻelua ōla'i ma Vanuatu i kēia pule. - There were two earthquakes in Vanuatu this week.

Aia ke ōlaʻi ma Indonesia. - The earthquake was in Indonesia.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


1. Community, neighborhood, village. ʻOia nō kekahi o nā kānaka waiwai nui a kūʻonoʻono ma iā mau kaiāulu, he was one of the wealthiest and most prosperous persons of these communities.
2. (Cap.) Name of a pleasant, gentle trade-wind breeze, famous in song, at Wai-ʻanae, Oʻahu. ʻOluʻolu i ka pā a ke Kaiāulu (song), cool with the touch of the Kaiāulu. Also Pua-kaiāulu.

Todayʻs He Momi is dedicated to my kaikamahine hānau ʻelua, my second born daughter, Kika. Her Hawaiian name is Kīkahakamanuikekaiāulu - the bird soars in the Waiʻanae wind, so named because at the time of her birth we were living in Waiʻanae.  And despite the fact that we moved out of Waiʻanae when Kika was still in elementary school, she still has a deep fondness for the area (as we all do). In fact, her first job after graduating from UHM with her MSW was in Waiʻanae!

For us, Kaiāulu refers to the wind of Waiʻanae, a pleasing wind, as any wind on that coast is welcomed! The song, Aloha ʻia ʻo Waiʻanae, has the line: Pā ana ka makani ke Kaiāulu, he aheahe mālie - the kaiāulu wind blows, a gentle breeze.

Kaiāulu also refers to a community or neighborhood. Noho au i ke kāiaulu o Pōhākealani - I live in the community of Pōhākealani.

Hauʻoli lā hānau e Kīkahakamanuikekaiāulu!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


1.  Scattered, dispersed, routed, gone, tousled; fine, crumbling; every which way, as hair in the wind.  2.  Peeling, as sunburn.  3.  Remainder, remnant; to remain.

    You know when you're sitting near a heap of ashes, maybe from the hibachi or a rubbish fire and then a gust of wind comes and whoooooosh, the ashes go flying all about?  That's puehu.  Or when you're riding in the car, hair all beautiful and all of a sudden someone opens a window and hair is flying all over the place, especially in your eyes?  That's puehu.

    Hopefully you haven't been peeling lately from a sunburn.  That is also puehu.  Use sunscreen!  Gee, I remember that the only thing we put on our skin way back in my youth was anykine oil to get more pāpaʻa!  Now we need to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

Ua puehu ka hulu o ka manu
 the feathers of the bird have scattered
 (Said of one who has left in a hurry)

Puehu ka lehu i nā maka o ka mea luhi
 Ashes fly into the eyes of the toiler
 (One must endure the unpleasant in order to gain the pleasant, just as the cook at a fireplace gets ashes into his eyes when he blows on the fire)

Puehu li'ili'i ka lehu o kapuahi
 The ashes of the fireplace are scattered in every direction.
 (Said of an angry person whose temper makes everybody scatter)

'Elua a puehu - two and a little over.

Ua puehu ka lehu i ka makani - the ashes were scattered in the breeze.

E puehu ana kona 'ili - Her skin is going to peel.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


1.  to go inland (whether or not uphill, to go up, climb, ascend, mount, rise; to fall, as one shadow on another.  2.  to experience personally, or appear, as heat.

Generally in our Hawaiian islands, and many other island communities, I suppose, when you go inland you are more than likely ascending.  This word is piʻi.  When you go mountain climbing specifically, you "piʻi kuahiwi."  When the tide rises it is called "piʻi ke kai" or literally, "the sea rises."  Any form of ascending, whether it be climbing a tree or going up a bunkbed, would be called piʻi.

Piʻi is also the word used to describe a feeling that you get, particularly heat, cold, and emotion, such as  "piʻi ka wela" the heat rises, for when you get angry. No kona huhū, piʻi ka ʻōlelo ʻino - because of his anger, evil words come forth. Piʻi ke anu - to get chills (literally it means the coldness rises).   Piʻi ka ʻula - the redness rises (blushing).

Here are several ʻōlelo noʻeau using the word piʻi:

Piʻi ka ihu o ka naiʻa i ka makani - The nose of the dolphin rises toward the wind. (Said of one who is haughty.)

Piʻi mai nei i ka pali me he ʻaʻama lā - Climbs the cliff like an ʻaʻama crab (said of one who goes beyond the limit).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ehu Ahiahi

The dust of evening

Aloha ahiahi!  Good evening!  Many of you may recognize ahiahi as being the Hawaiian word for evening.  And you may also know the word ʻehu (usually referring to the reddish tinge in hair). ʻEhu also refers to sea spray and dust.  In other words,ʻehu  ahiahi literally means "the dust of evening."  Otherwise known as evening twilight.  What a nice way to put it, huh?  Here's something else that seems so beautiful and is one of the reasons that I love the Hawaiian language so much. ʻEhu  ahiahi figuratively refers to old age. I think I like the idea of comparing old age to evening dust or twilight. Not a bad thought, especially since that time of day is a favorite of mine.

Ua hiki mai ka ʻehu ahiahi - Evening twilight is here (Old age has finally arrived).

Friday, October 2, 2009


nvi. Circle, group, as of people, trees (For. 5:287); gathering; to gather about in a circle.

How many of you are thinking of a song?  Pōhai ke aloha...  A gathering of love, encircled by love.  How magnificent. 
Pōhai is this gathering of people or things into a circle.  Pōhainani is the name of a retirement home on Oʻahu.  It means to be surrounded by beauty.  Isn't that a wonderful name for a home filled with kupuna?

Pōhai ka manu ma luna, he iʻa ko lalo - When the birds circle above, there are fish below.

Pōhai ka neki lewa i ka makani - Surrounded by the reeds that sway in the breeze. (Said of one handsome and graceful of movement)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


instruction, teaching, learning, to learn, teach, instruct, train, tutor, coach

The thing that I find most interesting and peculiar about today's "momi" that is SO different from English is that in Hawaiian the word for "to learn" is the same word for "to teach." And you don't really stop to think about it, but the best way to learn something is to actually teach it. That is aʻo.
I took Hawaiian for three years in high school and four years in college but never really could use it like I wanted to, just did well on the tests and speeches because you can study for that. But how did I finally learn to actually communicate in Hawaiian? I taught my babies! Yup, not much you need to say to an infant and a toddler (want to eat? don't do that!), and as my children got older my abilities had to get better in order to keep up the conversation! It was great! The intricacies of any fine art are best learned when it is taught to someone else. Want to learn more about Hawaiian history? Give someone else a reason to want to learn it and teach it to them. If you think you're good at something, try teaching it to someone else. that will show how good you really are.
This reminds me of one of my favorite ʻōlelo noʻeau:
Ma ka hana ka ʻike - in doing, one knows
E lawe i ka aʻo a e mālama, a e ʻoi mau ka naʻauao - He who takes his learning and applies it increases his knowledge.