As most of you know, hapa means “half,” and nui means “larger.” So hapanui, the “larger half,” means majority. Non-Hawaiians account for more than half of the people of Hawaiʻi, so they are the hapanui.
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.
We often hear aliʻi in conjunction with pageants and other places where our chiefs are portrayed. Yes, aliʻi means chief, chiefess, officer, ruler, monarch, king, queen. And aliʻi nui then is the “High Chief.” Now days we often hear mōʻī for king, but he was an aliʻi nui in the old days.
Pahu and hau combine to give us the Hawaiian word for ice box or refrigerator. Pahu is a box, chest, cabinet, or similar container, and hau means cool, iced, ice, frost, dew, snow. Put them together and you have an ice box: pahu hau.
If you listen to the weather forecasts, you will often hear the name ʻAlenuihāhā, our Hawaiian word for today. It is the name of the channel between Hawaiʻi and Maui, and is often mispronounced. It means “great billows smashing.”
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.
Wai wai means goods, property, assets, valuables, value, worth, wealth. We most often hear wai wai to mean rich, wealth, or value, as in the popular song “Iesū me ke kanaka wai wai,” – Jesus and the Rich Man – written by Johnny Almeida.
One of the Hawaiian words first learned by most non-Hawaiians is wahine for “woman.” Kāne for “man” and wahine for “woman” are often painted on restroom doors. It also means “lady, wife, female, queen in a deck of cards” and even femininity.
Paʻa is a very commonly used word that can mean: firm, solid, tight, adhering, durable, fast, fixed, stuck, secure, closed, and so much more. Paʻa ā paʻa means held fast, so hoʻo paʻa means to make fast, to bind.
Most people who live in Hawaiʻi know what a maile lei is, but it is one of those Hawaiian words that is all too often mispronounced. Maile is a native twining shrub with shiny, fragrant leaves, used for decorations and lei, especially on important occasions. Maile is pronounced “mai-lei,” not to be confused with the Leeward Oʻahu community called Māʻili.