Hawaiian Dictionary of Words you might encounter


a'a - rough, clinker-type lava

aha - mat braided out of rare seaweed used to decorate shrine of Ku

ahu - cairn; a stone mound serving as an altar, shrine, or security tower

ahupua'a - principal land division running from mountains seaward; basic unit of Hawaiian socio-economic organization

akau - north, or right

akua - personification of major natural forces; four all-powerful cosmic deities existed in Polynesian mythology: Kane, creator of nature and man; Kanaloa, associated with the sea and death; Ku, controlling agricultural productivity, politics, and the power behind war; and Lono, god of rain, agriculture, and fertility

ala - waterworn stones used as veneer in heiau construction

ali'i - ruling class of chiefs and nobles considered to be of divine origin

ali'i-aimoku - chief of an island or district - sometimes referred to as ke ali'i or ke ali'i-nui (chief, or great chief) or mo'i (king)

'anu'u - wooden framework obelisk serving as oracle tower

'aumakua - family spirit god belonging to and protecting families or specific kinship group and passed down through the generations; ancestral protective gods

'awa - plant used as a narcotic

hale o Lono - temple dedicated to Lono, deity of agriculture and fertility

hale mana - largest, most sacred house on luakini platform, used by king and high priest during kapu periods

hale noa - family sleeping house

Hale o Papa - womens heiau adjacent to a luakini

hale pahu - drum house in courtyard of luakini

hale umu - oven house for temple fires on luakini

haole - a European, White

heiau - temple; pre-Christian place of worship or sacrifice

hema - south, or left

holua - a long narrow sled on runners on which the ali'i raced down a long track

hula - averent dance linking music and poetry with religious overtones

'ili - subdivision of an ahupua'a; long, narrow strips of land running lengthwise along ahupuaa; ili lele (jump strips) comprised one segment near the ocean and one in the uplands or plains; moo were long strips of arable land within ili

'ili'ili - pebbles, usually waterworn pavement of these pebbles used as flooring on luakini

imu - underground oven; cooking pit

kahu - keeper responsible for care and worship of sharks who were thought to be embodiments of 'aumakua and who were fed and cared for to bring good luck and protect their worshippers

kahuna - priests and master craftsmen who ranked near the top of the social scale; occupational specialists; kahuna pule were a distinct group of priests presiding over each religious cult

kahuna-nui - chief priest assisting ali'i-nui with governmental functions; conducted important religious ceremonies, interpreted natural phenomena, consulted auspices for omens, and advised king in spiritual matters

kalai-moku - counselor to supreme chief serving as prime minister and chief administrative officer, advised on distribution of lands and on military strategy

kama'aina - native-born

kanaka - distant relatives of a chief

kapa - barkcloth made by pounding paper mulberry bark

kapu - taboo prohibition system with elaborate sanctions regarding behavior between individuals and among classes; this system was the major social control helping preserve class distinctions and conserve natural resources in ancient Hawai'i

kauwa - social outcasts, untouchables, possibly lawbreakers or war captives, considered unclean to aristocrats

kiawe - Hawaiian mesquite tree (algaroba)

ko'a - fishing shrine; pile of stones erected on promontories or headlands overlooking ocean or in form of small temples on rock platforms; designed to entice the gods to attract fish to the area

konane - variant of checkers played on wood board or rock with black and white pebbles

konohiki - resident representative of the high chief on the land; controlled the labor force

kuapa - seawall built across opening of natural embayment to form fishpond

kuhikuhi pu'uone - order of the priesthood with knowledge of plans and sites of abandoned heiau; provided advice when construction of new temple planned

kuhina-nui - premier regent

Ku-ka'ili-moku - war god special god of the kings of Hawaii Island; especially important during ascendancy to power and reign of Kamehameha; Kamehameha's personal god

kula - uplands; open country slopes between the shore habitation zone and the forest belt

kuleana - cultivated lands awarded to commoners during the Great Mahele

ku'ula - a large smooth stone set upright on a platform as a religious effigy; a shrine to the god Ku'ula used to attract fish

lele - sacrificial altar or stand

loko - general Hawaiian term for any type of pond or enclosed body of water

luakini - temple where Ku rituals held; built by ruling chiefs ceremonies held in connection with war and other national emergencies and involved human sacrifice

lua pa'u - refuse or bone pit within 'an'uu of luakini where decayed offerings and victims' bones cast

maika - game in which players threw or bowled stone discs between two upright sticks set in the ground

makaha - grill or sluice gate of straight sticks obstructing openings through seawall of fishponds; most distinctive feature of Hawaiian aquacultural system

maka'ainana - commoners, primarily laborers, fishermen, farmers, and the like

Makahiki ceremony - annual harvest festival comprising ritual for collecting tribute

makai - toward the sea

mana - spiritual or supernatural power; gods fully embodied this sacredness, nobility possessed it to a high degree; was concept underlying kapu system

mauka - toward the mountains, inland

mo'i image - image of luakini kept in mana house; primary image was akua mo'i (lord of the god image), elaborately carved statue placed in front of altar

mokupuni - name for each of the major Hawaiian islands or independent chiefdoms; each island was divided into major districts, or moku

mo'o - spirit guardian (lizard) that protects a resource, such as a fishpond, from overuse and other abuse

morae, marae, morai - term used by foreign observers when referring to heiau

noa - game of chance in which player had to guess on which person or under which kapa bundle a small stone was hidden

'ohana - extended family

ohi'a - tree whose wood was used for chief image, oracle tower, and houses on luakini platform area

opu - oracle tower similar to the 'anu'u in height and breadth but with small branches at the top

paehumu - fence of images on luakini

pahoehoe - smooth, rope type of lava flow

pali - cliff

pao - a hollow construction technique saving labor and materials; a caverned, honeycomb construction composed of several tiers of lava slabs or columns laid across the space between outer and inner retaining walls

papamu - konane game board

poi - staple plant food of Hawaiian diet cooked taro pounded and thinned with water

pu'uhonua - sacred areas, places of refuge where murderers, kapu-breakers, defeated warriors, and others who had incurred the wrath of the ruler could gain sanctuary and pardon

Pu'ukohola - Hill of the Whale

taro - a staple in the Hawaiian diet

wa'iea - small house for 'aha ceremony on luakini platform

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