What Do Aloha and Mahalo Mean (& Other Hawaiian Words)

In Hawaiian, Aloha means “hello” and “goodbye” while Mahalo means “thank you” in English.

But that’s really just the cliff notes and language, even the Hawaiian language which only contains 12 letters, is never that simple.

These words actually mean a lot more than Google translate can convey, and it’s important to understand their meanings if you want to better acquaint yourself with Hawaiian culture.

What Does Aloha Mean?

Hawaiian is a beautiful language.

It has likely existed for around 1,500 years and was born from a mixture of other Polynesian cultures back when the islands were first settled.

English speakers like to quote “Aloha” as being unique in that it means both goodbye and hello, as if suggesting some kind of symbiosis between the two-goodbye is never really goodbye, etc.,

It’s a beautiful sentiment, but the Hawaiian language is not alone in this, far from it.

The French say “Salut” and the Italians “Ciao”.

Many languages have words that take a variation of “with health” or “nice to meet you” and use them to mean both goodbye and hello.

Depending on your dialect, you may even be able to do it with English.

We typically say, “good morning” when we meet someone and “good evening” when we depart, but the two can be used for both greetings and fairwells, and if you’re in Australia, you can use “Good Day!” to cover pretty much all bases.

What is more unique about this Hawaiian word is that it can also be used in other contexts, and not just a hello or goodbye.

What Is The True Meaning Of Aloha?

Aloha is often used to mean “love” and “peace” and is one of the most important words in the Hawaiian language.

It has been said that aloha is a way of life, which is where the “aloha spirit” comes into play.

In truth, it’s a word that’s hard to translate as a native Hawaiian would understand it and it’s something that you just have to try and experience yourself.

Start by thinking of it as a translation of “hello”, “goodbye”, “respect”, and “love”, and then build from there.

Is It OK To Say Aloha?

Yes, it is OK to say aloha when you are in Hawaii. It is not considered rude or disrespectful.

If someone greets you with an aloha or departs from you with an aloha, free free to give on back. Embrace the aloha spirit.

Is “Aloha” Hello or Goodbye?

As stated earlier, “aloha” is both a greeting when meeting someone and the equivalent of a goodbye.

What Does mahalo Mean In Hawaiian?

Mahalo is a little easier to translate and more clearly define than Aloha.

Mahalo is most often used these days in the hospitality industry between locals and tourist. It’s a simple word that helps connect mainlanders and islanders.

Mahalo is often used as a way to say, “thank you”, although it seems to have come to the Hawaiian language rather late, with some claims suggesting that they didn’t have a word to show their gratitude, even though they were considered to be a very gracious people.

Today, none of that really matters, as the word mahalo is definitely used to show appreciation and respect, like saying “thank you” or “your help is much appreciated”, etc.,

How Do You Pronounce Mahalo

You pronounce Mahalo as “muh-haa-low.”

How Do You Respond To Mahalo?

The most common response in English to Mahalo is “You’re welcome.”

What Does Mahalo Nui Loa Mean?

“Mahalo Nui Loa” in Hawaiian translates to “Thank you very much” in English.

Similar to Mahalo, you can respond to Mahalo Nui Loa with “You’re welcome”.

You prounounce it “muh-haa-low noo-ee low-uh”

How Do You Say Beautiful In Hawaiian?

The standard translation of beautiful in Hawaiian is “nani”. It is pronounced “nah-knee”.

How Many Letters Are In The Hawaiian Alphabet?

There are only 12 letters, 7 consonants and 5 vowels, in the Hawaiian alphabet. They are: A, E, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, U, and W.

There is a 13th letter, though you may not be a letter that is familiar to you. It is the ʻokina that looks like an apostrophe and is used in many Hawaiian words such as Hawai’i.

Kevin Whitton, the author of Moon Hawaii, goes into okina in depth here.

Other Useful Hawaiian Words

Now that you understand two important words, it’s time to look at a few other useful words before you head to Hawaii and converse with the locals:

Ono = Delicious

Ohana = Loved Ones

Honu = Green Sea Turtle

Kokua = Assistance/Help

Kakou = Everybody

Haole = Foreigner

Pono = Righteousness (like “aloha”, it’s a word that can have many meanings and is hard to translate into English)

Kamaʻāina = Child of the Land

Summary: Learning The Hawaiian Language

Learning words and phrases for your trip to Hawaii is a small way to step into the Hawaiian culture and show respect to the locals who live on and work on the islands. Enjoy your trip. Aloha!