How To Pronounce Hawaii’s State Fish: humuhumunukunukuapua’a

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In other parts of the world, it is known as the wedge tail triggerfish and the rectangular triggerfish.

In Hawaii, it is know as the reef triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus) and it is the official state fish of Hawaii, where it’s known as humuhumunukunukuapua’a or “humuhumu”. It is pronounced: hu-mu-hu-mu-nu-ku-nu-ku-ah-poo-ah-ah

The reef triggerfish is quite a solitary fish and is also very territorial.

It won’t think twice about attacking swimmers and snorkelers who venture into its habit, and while it’s only about 10 inches long, it has some pretty sharp and menacing teeth.

Why is the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a Hawaii’s state fish?

The reef triggerfish has always had a close association with the Hawaiian islands.

It’s a beautiful and distinctive fish, one that you’ll often encounter when snorkeling around the islands.

This history led to the humuhumunukunukuapua’a being designated as the official state fish in 1985, only for the destination to expire 5 years later in 1990.

16 years after that expiration, a new bill was presented with the goal of permanently instating the reef trigger fish.

The re-election campaign was a success and the reef triggerfish has been Hawaii’s state fish ever since.

How Do You Pronounce The State Fish Of Hawaii?

To an English speaker with little knowledge of the Hawaiian language, “Humuhumunukunukuapua’a” looks like one of those long-string passwords that you reluctantly type after it refuses your usual easy-to-remember password (right before it tells you to add a number and special character).

It’s the sort of pronunciation that you’re happy to attempt, but usually give up halfway through and then trail off into a mash of syllables. But it’s really not as hard as it looks.

It’s basically just several repeated syllables formed into a very rhythmic and beautiful word.

If you look at the constituent parts “humu-humu-nuku-nuku-apua’a” it begins to look a little easier.

The correct pronunciation is as follows:


What does Humuhumunukunukuapua’a mean in English?

The name “humuhumunukunukuapua’a” roughly translates as “triggerfish with a snout like a pig”.

This gigantic word (often jokingly said to be bigger than the fish itself) serves as both a singular and plural.

The name has also been translated as “fish that snorts like a pig”.

The pig connection is a reference to the snorting noises that the fish make when they are being chased by predators, seemingly as a way of warning others about the imminent danger.

Is the Hawaii State Fish Native to the Islands?

Reef triggerfish can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific, stretching from the Hawaiian islands to Polynesia and Australia.

What Does the Hawaii Official State Fish Eat?

Reef triggerfish eat all kinds of reef invertebrates, including worms, sea urchins, snails, and brittlestars. They also feed on algae.

Although it is legal to eat this state fish, it’s not recommended.

The reef triggerfish has very tough skin and an acquired taste. It’s edible, but it’s not valued for its meat.

To borrow an overused but apt expression, there are many more fish in the sea.

They might not be as beautiful, but they probably taste a lot better.

What are the Types of Triggerfish?

There are about 40 species of triggerfish, all of which have bright colors and distinctive markings.

They live in tropical and subtropical regions and despite being very ill-tempered creatures, their bright colors have made them a popular choice for marine aquariums.

In addition to the reef triggerfish, the official fish of Hawaii, this family includes:

  • Orange-lined Triggerfish: A very aggressive fish named for the many orange lines that cover its body and fins.
  • Redtoothed Triggerfish: Feeds primarily on plankton.
  • Gilded Triggerfish: One of the least aggressive fish in the triggerfish family.
  • Grey Triggerfish: Considered to be one of the best-tasting triggerfish, despite its tough skin.