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Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, [1909], at

p. 264 p. 265


The study of Hawaiian pronunciation is mainly a study of vowel sounds and of accent. Each written vowel represents at least two related sounds.

A (ah) has the Italian sound found in father, as in ha-le or in La-ka; also a short sound like that of a in liable, as in ke-a-ke-a, to contradict, or in a-ha, an assembly.

E (a) has the sound of long a in fate, or of e in prey, without the i-glide that follows, as in the first syllable of Pé-le, or of mé-a, a thing; also the short sound of e in net, as in é-ha, hurt, or in péa, a sail.

I (ee) has the long sound of i in pique, or in police, as in i-li, skin, or in hí-la-hí-la, shame; also the short sound of i in hill, as in lí-hi, border, and in í-ki, small.

O (oh) has the long sound of o in note or in old, without the u-glide, as in ló-a, long, or as in the first syllable of Ló-no; also a short sound, which approximates to that sometimes erroneously given to the vowel in coat, as in pó-po, rotten, or as in ló-ko, a lake.

U (oo) has the long sound of u in rule, as in -la, to dance; and a short sound approximating to that of u in full, as in mú-ku, cut off.

Every Hawaiian syllable ends in a vowel. No attempt has been made to indicate these differences of vowel sound. The only diacritical marks here employed are the acute accent for stressed syllables and the apostrophe between two vowels to indicate the glottic closure or interruption of sound (improperly sometimes called a guttural) that prevents the two from coalescing.

In the seven diphthongs ae, ai, ao, au, ei, ia, and ua a delicate ear will not fail to detect a coalescence of at least two sounds, thus proving them not to be mere digraphs.

In animated description or pathetic narrative, or in the effort to convey the idea of length, or height, or depth, or immensity, the Hawaiian had a way of prolonging the vowel sounds of a word, as if by so doing he could intimate the amplitude of his thought.

The letter w (way) represents two sounds, corresponding to our w and our v. At the beginning of a word it has the sound of w (way), retaining this even when the word has become compounded. This is illustrated in Wái-a-lú-a (geographical name), and wá-ha mouth. In the middle of a word, or after the first syllable, it

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almost always has the sound of v (vay), as in hé-wa (wrong), and in E-wá (geographical name). In há-wa-wá (awkward), the compound word ha-wái (water-pipe), and several others the w takes the way sound.

The great majority of Hawaiian words are accented on the penult, and in simple words of four or more syllables there is, as a rule, an accent on the fourth and on the sixth syllables, counting back from the final syllable, as in lá-na-kí-la (victorious) and as in hó-o-kó-lo-kó-lo (to try at law).


Aha (á-ha)--a braided cord of sinet; an assembly; a prayer or religious service (note a, p. 20).

Ahaaina (á-ha-ái-na)--a feast.

Ai (ai, as in aisle)--vegetable food; to eat; an event in a game or contest (p. 93).

Ai-á-lo (to eat in the presence of)--the persons privileged to eat at an alii's table.

Aiha’a (ai-ha’a)--a strained, bombastic, guttural tone of voice in reciting a mele, in contrast to the style termed ko’i-honua (pp. 89, 90).

Ailolo (ai-ló-lo = to eat brains)--a critical, ceremonial sacrifice, the conditions of which must be met before a novitiate can be admitted as a practitioner of the hula as well as of other skilled professions (pp. 15, 31, 34).

Aina (aí-na)--the land; a meal (of food).

Alii (a-li’i)--chief; a person of rank; a king.

Aloha (a-ló-ha)--good will; affection; love; a word of salutation.

Ami (á-mi)--to bend: a bodily motion used in the hula (note, p. 202).

Anuenue (a-nú-e-nú-e)--a rainbow; a waterfall in Hilo (p. 61, verse 13).

Ao (á-o)--dawn; daytime: the world; a cloud (p. 196, verse 7).

Aumakua (aú-ma-kú-a)--an ancestral god (p. 23).

Awa (á-va)--bitter; sour; the soporific root of the Piper methysticum (p. 130).


Ekaha (e-káha)--the nidus fern, by the Hawaiians sometimes called ka hoe a Mawi, Mawi's paddle, from the shape of its leaves (p. 19).


Haena (Ha-é-na)--a village on the windward coast of Kauai, the home of Lohiau, for whom Pele conceived a passion in her dreams (p. 186).

Hala (há-la)--a sin; a variety of the "screw-pine" (Pandanus odoratissimus, Hillebrand). Its drupe was used in decoration, its leaves were braided into mats, hats, bags, etc.

Halapepe (há-la-pé-pe)--a tree used in decorating the kuahu (Dracæna aurea, Hillebrand) (p. 24).

Halau (ha-láu--made of leaves)--a canoe-shed; a hall consecrated to the hula; a sort of school of manual arts or the art of combat (p. 14).

Hale (há-le)--a house.

Hanai-kuahu (ha-nái-ku-á-hu--altar-feeder)--the daily renewal of the offerings laid on the kuahu; the officer who performed this work (p. 29).

Hanohano (há-no-há-no)--having dignity and wealth.

Hau (how)--a tree whose light, tough wood. strong fibrous bark, and mucilaginous flowers have many uses (Hibiscus tiliaceus).

Haumea (Hau-mé-a)--a mythological character, the same as Papa (note c. p. 126).

Heiau (hei-aú)--a temple.

Hiiaka (Hi’i-á-ka)--the youngest sister of Pele (p. 186).

Hilo (Hí-lo)--to twist as in making string; the first day in the month when the new moon appears; a town and district in Hawaii (pp. 60, 61).

Holoku (hó-lo-kú)--a loose gown resembling a "Mother Hubbard," much worn by the women of Hawaii.

p. 267

Hoonoa (ho’o-nó-a)--to remove a tabu; to make ceremonially free (p. 126).

Hooulu (ho’o-ú-lu)--to cause to grow; to inspire. (Verse 3, Pule Kuahu, p. 20, and verse 1, Pule Kuahu, p. 21.)

Hoopaa (ho’o-pá’a)--the members of a hula company who, as instrumentalists, remained stationary, not moving in the dance (p. 28).

Huikala (hú-i-ká-la)--to cleanse ceremonially; to pardon (p. 15).

Hula (hú-la), or int. húlahúla--to dance, to make sport, to the accompaniment of music and song.


I’a (i’a)--fish; a general term for animal food or whatever relish serves for the time in its place.

Ieie (í-e-í-e)--a tall woody climber found in the wild woods, much used in decoration (Freycinetia arnotti, p. 19).

Ilamuka (í-la-mú-ku)--a constable.

Ilima (i-lí-ma)--a woody shrub (Sida fallax, Hillebrand) whose chrome-yellow flowers were much used in making wreaths (p. 56).

Ilio (í-lí-o)--a dog; a variety of hula (p. 223).

Imu (í-mu), sometimes umu (ú-mu)--a native oven, made by lining a hole in the ground and arching it over with stones (verse 3, Oli Paú, p. 51).

Inoa (i-nó-a)--a name. (see Mele inoa.)

Ipo (í-po)--a lover; a sweetheart.

Ipoipo (í-po-í-po), hoipo (ho-í-po), or hoipoipo (ho-í-po-í-po)--to make love; to play the lover; sexual dalliance.

Ipu (í-pu)-a general name for the Cucurbitaceæ, and the dishes made from them, as well as dishes of coconut shell, wood, and stone; the drum-like musical Instrument made from joining two calabashes (p. 73).

Iwa (í-wa, pr. í-va)--the number nine; a large black sea-bird, probably a gull (p. 76).


Kahiki (Ka-hí-ki)--Tahiti; any foreign country (p. 17).

Kahiko (ka-hí-ko)--ancient; to array; to adorn.

Kahuna (ka-hú-na)--a priest; a skilled craftsman. Every sort of kahuna was at bottom and in some regard a priest, his special department being indicated by a qualifying word, as kahuna anaana, sorcerer, kahuna kalai wa’a, canoe-maker.

Kai (pr. kye)--the ocean; salty. I-kai, to the ocean; ma-kai, at the ocean.

Kakaolelo (ka-ká-o-lé-lo)--One skilled in language; a rhetorician; a councilor (p. 98).

Kamapua’a (Ká-ma-pu-a’a)--literally the bog-child; the mythological swine-god, whose story is connected with that of Pele (p. 231).

Kanaka (ka-ná-ka)--a man; a commoner as opposed to the alii. Kanaka (ká-na-ka), men in general; the human race. (Notice the different accents.)

Kanaenae (ká-nae-naé)--a propitiatory sacrifice; an intercession; a part of a prayer (pp. 16, 20).

Kanaloa (Ká-na-ló-a)--one of the four major gods, represented as of a dark complexion and of a malignant disposition (p. 24).

Kane (Ká-ne)--male; a husband; one of the four major gods, represented as being a tall blond and of a benevolent disposition (p. 24).

Kapa (ká-pa)--the paper-cloth of the Polynesians, made from the fibrous bark of many plants by pounding with wooden beaters while kept moist.

Kapo (Ká-po)--a goddess and patron of the hula, sister of the poison-god, Kalai-pahoa, and said to be mother of Laka (pp. 25, 45).

Kapu (ká-pu)--a tabu; a religious prohibition (pp. 30, 57).

Kau (Ka-ú)--"the milk;" a district on the island of Hawaii.

Kawele (ka-wé-le)--a manner of cantillating In a distinct and natural tone of voice; about the same as ko’i-honua (p. 58).

Kihei (ki-héi)--a robe of kapa worn after the fashion of the Roman toga,

p. 268

Kii (kí’i)--to fetch, to go after a thing: an image, a picture, a marionette: a variety of the hula (p. 91).

Kilauea (Ki-lau-é-a)--the great active volcano of Hawaii.

Kini (kí-ni)--the number 40,000; a countless number. Kini Akua, a host of active, often mischievous, little folk in human form that peopled the deep woods. They resembled our elves and brownies, and were esteemed as having godlike powers (p. 21, note; p. 24).

Kilu (kí-lu)--a dish made by cutting off obliquely the top of a coconut or small gourd, which was used as a sort of top in the game and dance called kilu. (Hula kilu, p. 235.)

Ko--sugar-cane; performed, accomplished. With the causative prefix ho’o, as in ho’oko (ho’o-kó), to accomplish, to carry to success (p. 30).

Ko’i (kó’i)--an ax, an adz; originally a stone implement. (See mele beginning Ko’i maka nui, p. 228.)

Ko’i honua (ko’i ho-nú-a)--a compound of the causative ko, i, to utter, and honua, the earth; to recite or cantillate in a quiet distinct tone, in distinction from the stilted bombastic manner termed ai-ha’a (p. 58).

Kokua-kumu (ko-kú-a-kú-mu)--the assistant or deputy who took charge of the halau in the absence of the kumu-hula (p. 29).

Kolea (ko-lé-a)--the plover; the name of a hula (p. 219).

Kolohe (ko-ló-he)--mischievous; restless; lawless (note d, p. 194).

Kona (Kóna)--a southerly wind or storm; a district on the leeward side of many of the islands.

Koolau (Ko’o-láu)--leaf-compeller; the windward side of an island; the name of a wind. (A Koolau wau, ike i ka ua. verse 1. p. 59.)

Ku--to stand; to rise up; to fit; a division of land; one of the four major gods who had many functions, such as Ku-pulupulu, Ku-mokuhalii, Ku-kaili-moku, etc. (Mele, Ku e, nana e! p. 223.)

Kuahu (ku-á-hu)--an altar; a rustic stand constructed in the halau in honor of the hula gods (p. 15).

Kuhai-moana (Ku-hái-mo-á-na)--a shark-god (pp. 76, 77).

Ku’i (ku’i)--to smite; to beat; the name of a hula (p. 250).

Kukui (ku-kú-i)--a tree (Aleurites moluccana) from the nuts of which were made torches; a torch. (Mahana lua na kukui a Lanikaula, p. 130, note c.)

Kumu-hula (kú-mu húla)--a teacher and leader of the hula.

Kupee (ku-pe’e)--a bracelet; an anklet (Mele Kupe’e, p. 49.)

Kupua (ku-pú-a)--a superhuman being; a wonder-worker: a wizard.

Ku-pulupulu (Kú-pú-lu-pú-lú)--Ku the hairy; one of the forms of god Ku, propitiated by canoe-makers and hula folk (p. 24).


Laa (lá’a)--consecrated; holy; devoted.

Laa-mai-Kahiki--A prince who flourished some six or seven centuries ago and voyaged to Kahiki and back. He was an ardent patron of the hula (p. 103).

Lama (lá-ma)--a torch; a beautiful tree (Maba sandwicensis, Hillebrand) having fine-grained whitish wood that was much used for sacred purposes (p. 23).

Lanai (la-nái)--a shed or veranda; an open part of a house covered only by a roof.

Lanai (La-na’i)--the small island lying southwest of Maui.

Lani (lá-ni)--the sky; the heaven or the heavens; a prince or king; heaven-born (pp. 81, 82).

Lehua (le-hú-a)--a forest tree (Metrosideros polymorpha) whose beautiful scarlet or salmon-colored flowers were much used in decoration (Pule Hoo-noa, p. 126).

Lei (lei: both vowels are sounded, the i slightly)--a wreath of flowers. of leaves, feathers, beads, or shells (p. 56).

Liloa (Li-ló-a)--an ancient king of Hawaii, the father of Umi (p. 131).

p. 269

Lohiau (Ló-hi-áu)--the prince of Haena, with whom Pele became enamored in her dreams (p. 186).

Lolo (ló-lo)--the brain (p. 34).

Lono (Ló-no)--one of the four major gods of Hawaii (p. 24).

Luau (lu-aú)--greens made by cooking young taro leaves; in modern times a term applied to a Hawaiian feast.


Mahele (ma-hé-le)--to divide; a division of a mele; a canto; a part of a song-service (p. 58).

Mahiole (má-hi-ó-le)--a helmet or war-cap, a style of hair-cutting in imitation of the same (p. 91).

Mahuna (ma-hú-na)--a small particle; a fine scale; a variety of delicate kapa; the desquammation of the skin resulting from habitual awa-drinking.

Makalii (Má-ka-li’i)--small eyes; small, fine; the Pleiades (p. 216 and note on p. 218).

Malo (má-lo)--a loin-cloth worn especially by men. (Verses 4, 5, 6 of mele on p. 36).

Mano (ma-nó)--a shark; a variety of hula (p. 221).

Mauna (máu-na)--a mountain. A word possibly of Spanish origin.

Mele (mé-le)--a poem; a song; to chant; to sing.

Mele inoa--a name-song; a eulogy (pp. 27, 37).

Mele kahéa (ka-héa = to call)--a password by which one gained admission to the halau (pp. 38, 41).

Moo (mó’o)--a reptile: a dragon; a mythologic monster (p. 260).

Muumuu (mu’u-mu’u)--an under garment worn by women; a shift; a chemise; a person maimed of hand or foot; the name of a hula (p. 212).


Naulu (náu-lu)--name of the seat-breeze at Waimea. Lanai. Ua naulu=at heavy local rain (pp. 110, 112).

Noa (nó-a)--ceremonially free; unrestrained by tabu (p. 126).

Noni (nó-ni)--a dye-plant (Morinda citrifolia) whose fruit was sometimes eaten.

Nuuanu (Nu’u-á-nu) a valley back of Honolulu that leads to the "Pali."


Ohe (ó-he)--bamboo; a flute; a variety of the hula (pp. 135, 145).

Ohelo (o-hé-lo)--an edible berry that grows at high altitudes; to reach out; to stretch; a variety of the hula (p. 233).

Ohia (o-hi’a)--a name in some places applied to the lehua (q. v.), more generally the name of a fruit tree, the "mountain apple" (Eugenia malaccensis).

Olapa (o-lá-pa)--those members of a hula company who moved in the dance, as distinguished from the hoopaa, q. v., who sat and cantillated or played on some instrument (p. 28).

Oli (ó-li)--a song; a lyric; to sing or chant (p. 254).


Olohe (o-ló-he)--an expert in the hula; one who has passed the ailolo test and has also had much experience (p. 32).

Oo (o-ó)--a spade; an agricultural implement, patterned after the whale spade (p. 85); a blackbird, one of those that furnished the golden-yellow feathers for the ahuula, or feather cloak.


Paepae (pae-páe)--a prop; a support; the assistant to the po’o-pua’a (p. 20).

Pahu (pá-hu)--a box; a drum; a landmark; to thrust, said of a spear (pp. 103, 138).

Pale (pá-le)--a division; a canto of a mele; a division of the song service in a hula performance (pp. 58, 89).

Pali (pá-li)--a precipice; a mountain wall cut up with steep ravines. (Mele on pp. 51-53, verses 4, 5, 8, 16, 17, 27, 49.)

Papa (pá-pa)--a board; the plane of the earth's surface: a mythological character, the wife of Wakea.

Pa-u (pa-ú)--a skirt; a garment worn by women reaching from the waist to about the knees (p. 50). The dress of the hula performer (p. 49), Oli Pa-ú (p. 51),

p. 270

Pele (Pé-le)--the goddess of the volcano and of volcanoes generally, who held court at the crater of Kilauea, on Hawaii; a variety of the hula (p. 186).

Pikai (pi-kái)--to asperse with sea-water mixed, perhaps, with turmeric, etc., as in ceremonial cleansing (p. 31).

Poo-puaa (po’o-pu-a’a)--Boar's head; the one selected by the pupils in a school of the hula to be their agent and mouthpiece (p. 29).

Pua’a (pu-a’a)--a pig; the name of a hula (p. 228).

Puka (pú-ka)--a hole, a doorway, to pass through.

Pule (pú-le)--a prayer; an incantation; to pray.

Pulou (pu-lo’u)--to muffle; to cover the head and face (p. 31).

Puniu (pu-ní-u)--a coconut shell; a small drum made from the coconut shell (p. 141): a derisive epithet for the human headpiece.


Ti, or ki--a plant (Dracaena terminalis) that has large smooth green leaves used for wrapping food and in decoration. Its fleshy root becomes syrupy when cooked (p. 44).


Uka (ú-ka)--landward or mountainward.

Ulu-lele (ú-ku-lé-le)--a flea; a sort of guitar introduced by the Portuguese.

Uniki (u-ní-ki)--the debut or the first public performance of a hula actor. (Verse 21 of mele on p. 17.)


Waa (wa’a)--a canoe.

Wahine (wa-hí-ne)--a female; a woman; a wife.


Waialeale (Wai-á-le-á-le)--billowy water; the central mountain on the island of Kauai (p. 106).