What Is Hawaiian Pidgin?

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Hawaiian pidgin is a creole language that is spoken in some form by over 1 million people, most of which live on the Hawaiian Islands.

Although it’s typically considered to be a “lesser” language than both Hawaiian and English, Hawaiian pidgin is spoken throughout the state and is commonly used in advertisements and in the media. It was recognized as an official language in 2015 by the US Census Bureau.

What is the Hawaiian Pidgin Language?

A pidgin language is a simplified language that develops among people who don’t have a common language. It is traditionally used in business circles and the word “pidgin” actually comes from the Chinese pronunciation of the word “business”.

It is not a native language and merely serves as a secondary language that is used to communicate basic concepts and ideas, often through devices like onomatopoeia, as well as simplified versions of other languages.

Now…while all of that is certainly fascinating, it’s not entirely relevant here as the Hawaiian pidgin language is technically not a pidgin language. It certainly began that way, but it has since evolved into a demographically stable language that has become nativized.

How To Learn Hawaiian Pidgin

In Hawaii, people speak Hawaiian Pidgin more than Hawaiian, and a little knowledge can go a long way. Hawaiian Pidgin is more intelligible for English speakers than many other creole languages, and many experts consider it to be a dialect of American English.

An English speaker can grasp a lot of the words and phrases without any extensive language studies, but some words are easier than others, as you can see from the examples below:

What Does Dakine Mean In Hawaiian Pidgin?

“Dakine” seems to derive from “the kind” and essentially serves as a placeholder, much like “whatsit” or “so-and-so”. It can be used to refer to people, objects, or even concepts.

How To Say Hello In Hawaiian Pidgin?

“Aloha” is used to mean both “hello” and “goodbye” in Hawaii and is commonly used in Hawaiian Pidgin and by English speakers.

How To Say Love In Hawaiian Pidgin

“Aloha” is an amazing word. Not only does it mean both “hello” and “goodbye”, but it’s also used to express love, sympathy, and respect, among other things. You could write an entire book on this word.

How To Say Eat In Hawaiian Pidgin

“Eat” is “grind”, but the word “kau kau” is also used to describe the act of eating and food itself.

Other Common Words in Hawaiian Pidgin English

Are you ready to start speaking pidgin? Check out the following pidgin words and start speaking like a local!

  • B-52 Bombah: A cockroach.
  • Brah: Short for “brother”, this common surfer slang is used in a similar way to “Dude” and “Bro”.
  • Broke Da Mout: Contrary to what you might think, this pidgin phrase doesn’t describe a broken jaw and actually references a meal that is so delicious it “broke da mout”.
  • Chicken Skin: A term that describes “goosebumps”, as in “as soon as I heard that, I got chicken skin”.
  • Da Kine: Something that you can’t remember the name of.
  • Fut: A “fart”.
  • Hana Hou: Means “to do it again” and is used in the same context as “encore”.
  • Holo Holo: A mindless wander; a leisurely stroll.
  • Howzit: A combination of the English words “how”, “is”, and “it” that simply means, “How are things?” or “How are you?”
  • Kapu: Something is Kapu when it is “prohibited”.
  • Luh-dat: A combination of “like” and “that”, as in “it’s just luh-dat sometimes”.
  • Makai and Mauka: Makai means “oceanside” and Mauka means “mountainside”. These words are used to give directions.
  • Moke: A man who acts like he is tough.
  • Pakalolo: A blend of the Hawaiian words meaning “tobacco” and “numbing” that is used to refer to marijuana.
  • Pow: Means you are “all done”.
  • Slippahs: Simply “slippers”, but also used to reference sandals and flip-flops.
  • Tanks: “Thanks”.
  • Talk Stink: When you talk negatively about someone behind their back.
  • Talk Story: “Telling stories”, as in “gossiping” or chatting with friends.
  • Tita: The feminine equivalent of a moke, a female who acts tough.


FAQs About Pidgin and Pidgin Speakers

There’s so much to learn about this fascinating language, so if you’re still curious or have a few questions, check out these frequently asked questions.

Do All Locals Speak Hawaiian Pidgin?

There are around 1 million speakers of Hawaiian Pidgin in Hawaii and a further 100,000 currently living in the continental United States. When you consider that there are only 1,4 million Hawaiians on the island, that’s quite an impressive number and it gives you an idea of just how widespread this language is.

How Does The Hawaiian Pidgin Accent Sound To Americans?

Hawaiian Pidgin is very similar to American English in parts, but if you don’t have any experience of Hawaiian culture or the Hawaiian language, many of the words will be missed. For the most part, however, it sounds like a simplified version of American English spoken with a strong accent.

What is the Hawaiian Pidgin Bible?

There are two Hawaiian Pidgin bibles. The first, published in 2000, is known as “Da Jesus Book” and was created by a team of 26 local Hawaiians in combination with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They used the original bible text (in Greek) as well as the English translations and translated the entire New Testament.

This was followed by a translation of the Old Testament, known as Da Good An Spesho Book.

Is Hawaiian Pidgin English Officially A Recognized Language?

Pidgin speakers rejoice! Hawaiian Pidgin became an official language in 2015.

The announcement was made by the US Census Bureau after they conducted a survey of over 325,000 Hawaiians and found a huge number of Hawaiian Pidgin speakers in the state.

What is Hawaiian Pidgin a Mix Of?

Hawaiian Pidgin, like all pidgin languages, developed out of necessity as a way for English speaking residents, Native Hawaiians, and immigrant laborers to communicate on the sugarcane plantations. It was a common language that borrowed a lot from English, as well as Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and more.

Why is it Called Pidgin?

Pidgin is said to come from the Chinese pronunciation of the word “business”. It sounds like a bit of a stretch to modern English ears, but it’s important to remember that the Chinese traders who first spoke that word didn’t know any English.