Often we hear Hawaiians speak of their ʻaumakua, their family or personal god – deified ancestors who might assume the shape of sharks, owls, hawks, mud hens, octopuses, eels, mice, rats, even clouds or plants.
Heluhelu means “to read.” Helu, by itself, is to count, but re-duplicating it gives us a new word: to read. All of us can heluhelu and we do it everyday reading books, newspapers, magazines, signs, and more.
Another popular place name that is often mispronounced is Maʻalaea, a bay, village, and small boat harbor on Maui. It is probably a contraction from maka ʻalaea which relates to the yellow, or red color of the Earth's beginning.
Wai means “water.” Wai is a very important thing to Hawaiians, and for that reason is included in many names – both place names, such as Waimānalo, Waikīkī, and Waiehu. And in many family and given names. Wai can be used for any type of liquid except sea water.
Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is the name of our state, Hawaiʻi. It is pronounced either as “Hawaiʻi” or “Havaiʻi.” Yes, either is okay. Language experts say you can pronounce it with a “w” or a “v” if that sound follows an “a.”
We often hear kakahiaka as part of aloha kakahiaka, a greeting early in the day. And most know it means morning. The popular greeting came in to use only after the arrival of the poʻe haole, as a translation for “good morning.”
Ala, meaning path or way, is used in so many of our street names, that is pretty well known, and most people know that it is a redundancy to say “Ala Wai Boulevard” or “Ala Moana Boulevard.” Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is alanui, the natural extension of ala. It means a big path, or a big way, a highway or a freeway.
Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is another frequently mispronounced Hawaiian place name: Keʻeaumoku. That well-driven street was probably named for a governor of Maui who bore the same name as his father, and ally, and father-in-law of Kamehameha the First.
Hapa is most often used in English conversation to describe something that is mixed or part of something. And although, it comes from the English word “half,” it means portion or part. We hear hapa used in hapa Hawaiʻi for part Hawaiian, or hapa haole for part foreign.
Our Hawaiian word for today is koʻo for “support.” Koʻo has many meanings and many uses, but most commonly is used to describe a brace or a prop, a helper, something used to help support something else – even a cane become a koʻo koʻo.
Wela means hot. You'll hear both wela (well-a) or wela (vel-a) as correct pronunciations, depending on the sound it follows. Wela means hot, burned, heat, temperature, but can also mean “lust” or “passion” or “feeling lust.” Wela wela is “doubly hot.”
On the mainland, folks believe that if the groundhog comes out on February 2 and sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Our Hawaiian word for today is aka, for shadow. You'll see more shadows than groundhogs in Hawaiʻi!
Huakaʻi is Hawaiian for trip, voyage, journey, mission, procession, even a parade. It doesn't have to be a long voyage or flight. A trip to Maui is a huakaʻi, just as a trip to Japan is a huakaʻi. Next time you plan a trip, call it a huakaʻi.