21 Slang Words You Should Know Before Visiting Hawaii (Part 1)

NEENZ tweeted about the 21 slang words you should know before visiting Canada and asked for a Hawaii version. Sure!  So here is my list of 21 slang words you should know before visiting Hawaii (at least part 1 of the list).

Note: Hawaii slang is mostly based on the long standing Pidgin English, well covered in Pidgin to Da Max. This list ain’t going up against this classic, but instead is my interpretation weaved in with familiar faces. 🙂


lua – bathroom. After flying for hours over the Pacific Ocean, one of your first stops will proably be the lua. Kane is for the men and wahine is for the ladies.

howzit – the all around Hawaiian-style greeting asking in easy going short form, “How is everything going?”

shaka – the universal hand gesture of Hawaii that can be used as a form of thanks, a greeting, or a good bye. LA Laker Kobe Bryant demonstrates the shaka.


While driving in Hawaii, If you ever make a mistake and inadvertently cut someone off, be sure to immediately sign the shaka as an apology. I call this the “shakalogy.”

shark bait – the stark white skin tourists like to tan while visiting the 50th state.  Why “shark bait?” Because in the ocean, sharks find that white skin so visually yummy.  Be sure to slather on that SP50 sunscreen even on your ears and top of your feet.

haole – a white person but not necessarily derogatory or demeaning, just a fact. Chris Pirillo is a haole who typifies shark bait.



ohana – your family, can consist of immediate family members, extended relatives, and friends. If you want an impromptu gathering of your ohana, just go to any grand opening of a new store like Target. You’re guaranteed to see someone from your ohana.

“small world” – you’ve heard how it’s a small world after all. Well, living on an island hyper-sensitizes this meaning. With an estimated 1.5 degree of separation in Hawaii, it’s hard to keep secrets. Somebody knows. But it’s also part of the social fabric of Hawaii that engenders the spirit of aloha.

“where you went grad?” or “what school you went?” – because it’s a small world, Hawaii’s one of the few places where your high school matters. This is one of the first questions local people will ask each other when meeting for the first time. Yes, even when at sea on board a nuclear powered naval aircraft carrier, “where you went grad?” rings true (see the 5:05 mark).

poho – a waste of time. Trying to keep secrets from your ohana in Hawaii’s small world is poho.


ono – delicious, scrumptious.

malasada – a doughnut-like pastry with Portuguese origins. Hawaii’s version of Krispy Kreme way before there was Krispy Kremes.

Zippys – Hawaii’s equivalent to (but more ono than) Denny’s. Always serving Hawaii comfort food. Here’s a haole eating ono grinds (food) at Zippys.

Continued in Part 2 of 21 Slang Words You Should Know Before Visiting Hawaii.


  • Wonderful list! I have nothing but faith and pulp in you 🙂

  • Wonderful list! I have nothing but faith and pulp in you 🙂

  • Fooking Haole

    You’re kidding, right? Sure “haole” means foreigner, but like “gaijin” and “gringo” mean foreigner and that is not necessarily a nice thing to say. Of course, a bunch of haoles talking story will call each haole, or bitch for that matter, not meaning either in a bad way, but still using a derogatory word.

    • I hear your point, and this was a sensitive one. But seeing how there are additional terms such as “dumb haole” and “fooking haole” (as your commenter name points out), the need for additional adjectives “dumb” and “fooking” kinda indicates the trending neutrality of “haole.”

      That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 😉

    • actually haole came from ha ole (ha-oh-lay) which means no breath. when the white people came from america, the hawaiians had never seen someone so pale and thought that they were dead. then it turned something you call white people. it actually isn’t really mean because usually people just joke around with there friends and say oh you haole oh you fillipino kine

      • Kawika Young

        No you retard haole is pronounced (how-lee) and means white person.

      • born and raised Kaimuki

        As I see it, Cloe’s pronunciation (ha-oh-lay) is used by locals and those who learn Hawaiian from UH. (More technically correct) Your suggested pronunciation (how-lee) is a common everyday pronunciation used by haole and local alike. (More colloquial)

      • vikingphysicist

        Haole in modern slang means white person to most people in Hawaii. In Hawaiian the true meaning was always “foreign”. The word predates Hawaiians meeting white people and even now plenty of country Hawaiian’s that I know differentiate between a haole with mainland city lifestyle and a local white person

      • Jimmy Thomson

        from what i have heard and seen how a word is said is the diff

      • Jimmy Thomson

        example..howzit howlee you gonna get some zippy grinds.. shoots

      • very much so, very much so!

    • Kalani Dapitan

      Ok to clarify, let me start by saying Aloha! Which is actually two words Alo, or to share, or to give. Ha, being breath or the breath of life. So to share the breath of life, in old days the Hawaiian people would great each other by getting nose to nose and sharing a few breaths. Inhailing and exhailing. Giving each other assurance that each one respects the land, the ocean and the waterways, Just as God did with Adam in the garden where the first aloha was shared. Where by breathing into his nostrils that first breath of life, he gave Adam the responsibility to takecare of everything that God had created. His surroundings, his resources, his land, his ecosystem.
      Now to Ha’Ole which also can be broken down in to 2 words. 1st, Ha being the breath, or the breath of life. 2nd Ole which come frome the root word A’Ole witch means no, lack of or without. Now to say that one is Ha’Ole means that one would lack the breath of life. Or would not care enough to take care if his surroundings, resources, or land. So you see to be with out Ha is to be uncaring about or irresponsible with concern to ones environment. So the term Ha’Ole came from came from those who did not have respect their environment or the land or that water. In fact I know because humans are so similar, that there were people that where cocidered Ha’Ole before the sight of white man. So before you take offense to what you think Ha’Ole is. Find out what it means.

      • Hipolito123

        Thank you so much for that information. I spent a year in Hawaii in the early 90s on a telecom job when Bu La Ia should have been elected governor. He was hilarious. I remember the thumb and little finger salute meaning “Hand Loose.”

      • Hipolito123

        Sorry, “Hang Loose.”

      • Brian McMurty

        I have NEVER heard myself referred to as a haole – it was always F%$CKING HAOLE!
        People in Hawaii are horrible and taught to hate whites from a very young age! Google “Kill haole day” – the last day of school is traditionally open season on white children.

      • Kalani Dapitan

        Im sure if you were to ask anyone today, you would find out that the “kill haole day” might have been a thing in the 70s or 80s and probably only with in a tight group of people. I grew up here and still call this my home I went to school in the 90s and heard stories of it but I had never seen any one race singled out on the last day or any day. You see if you were thought at a young age that “people in Hawaii are horrible ” or taught that whites are racist (I’m not implying just making a point), or that red is red, up town is rich and trailer parks are poor, or that beaches are beautiful and deserts are ugly, and then that’s what you believe, then may I make a suggestion? Come to Hawaii and find out, are we all horrible? Go find a white person and see if they are racist. Go talk to a art store employee and see if red is red, who knows it might be a dark pink. Go to the trailer park, maybe they have riches someone from up town wishes they had. An I’ve been to Arizona and have driven from Salt Lake city to LasVagas. What we each are taught and what we choose to experience for our self could determine how we as individuals see our world.

      • Kalani Dapitan

        Oh yeah and I personally trust all the answers I get on google.

      • sherob

        I went to school at Wheeler Intermediate, and Mililani High School in the 70’s, and yes, Kill Haole Day was the last day of school year! BTDT! LOL!!!

    • red_slider

      All I know is that after my wife’s family looked me over real good and decided I was “not bad for a damn haole” I’ve taken ‘haole’ as a super compliment. ‘damn haole’ is even better. 🙂

      • Yup, yup. Most definitely a compliment! 🙂

    • bootcamp808

      Gay people will call their gay friends “faggot’ all of the time. I have a straight black friend who calls other blacks the “N-word” all of the time but she recommends that I don’t do it to other black people.

  • Fooking Haole

    You’re kidding, right? Sure “haole” means foreigner, but like “gaijin” and “gringo” mean foreigner and that is not necessarily a nice thing to say. Of course, a bunch of haoles talking story will call each haole, or bitch for that matter, not meaning either in a bad way, but still using a derogatory word.

    • I hear your point, and this was a sensitive one. But seeing how there are additional terms such as “dumb haole” and “fooking haole” (as your commenter name points out), the need for additional adjectives “dumb” and “fooking” kinda indicates the trending neutrality of “haole.”

      That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 😉

  • How about “talk story”?

    • As requested, “talk story” added to Part 2 of the list

      • Hipolito123

        Hawiian Style Band, “Let’s Talk Story.” I listened to this in the early 90s when I was there for so many glorious months.

      • Ha, that’s a good idea using this music video to explain it all. Thanks!

      • Hipolito123

        He me iki ia.

  • How about “talk story”?

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  • Mainlander

    Haole literally means “Intruder” in Hawaiian.

    • Stephen McMahon

      While I cannot verify this, I believe that the most detailed and thoughtful explanation of the word ‘haole’ can be found here:  I would say that the last 2 paragraphs of that explanation say a lot about the person that posted it and I think that the next time I’m living in Hawaii I will go out of my way to make this person my friend 🙂

    • Eyeofset1

      no breath

    • Haole!

      not really…it translates as ‘no breath’, as white colonists refused the traditional Hawaiian greeting in which you touch noses and exhale into each others mouth. From the book ‘Unfamiliar Fishes’ by Sarah Vowel(great book).

    • Guest

      no it means no breath

    • Red skin

      I’ve made my own shirts here in Huntington Beach California AKA Surf City )(aola and proud of it!

  • infernal campain

    Haole means no breath

  • Nalo Keed 808

    Haole boyyyyyyyyyyy

  • kj


  • Bradda cuz

    I’m born an raised in Hawaii and I’ll say this list is a little off. Haole is meant for white people and is DEFINATELY a derogatory term. If someone calls you a fucking Haole they are pissed at you and you should leave the situation.

    • Thanks Bradda. I get your point but then again I’ve used “haole” in general to describe the white guy. Usually the tone of the use kinda dictates derogatory or not and that f&*king part is a giveaway. 😉

      • bob

        Use to live there and F&H is very close to saying F&N. It’s just that the haters have the stupid people fooled in to thinking it’s o.k. Just trying to fool whitey and others into using it.

    • Hipolito123

      In my ten months in the 90s, I heard the term in both contexts. I was on a project upgrading HPD radio system to digital. At lunch, I asked two of the bosses if there really was a Hawaii 5-O. The laughed, one said, “Book ’em, Dan O,” but they wouldn’t tell me. Once eating shrimp with some surfers, one said, “Look, Ha’Ole eat bait.” Again, a laugh. I was continuously described as “The Ha’Ole whose trying to look like a local,” again with a laugh. The only time I remember it used with “F” was when it was explained to me how I could never understand how peaceful life was on the Island before the “F… Ha’Oles” arrived. I truly sympathize.

      • Will

        I met some Haole Boys that lived in Mountain View, Big Island. When I met them I though for sure they were born and raised here…I was surprised that they had only moved here a few years back…these guys had totally absorbed the culture and were accepted…trip, full on local infusion kine! But it’s definitely a much more local side of the island. You will hear horror stories of peoples kids getting hard time in public school

        Believe me, when a local calls you “Haole Boy/Girl” or introdoces you as “my haole friend” that is definitely a term of endearment…it means they like you and should be taken as a compliment(a local comedian Augie T. talks on the radio, there’s this white girl from the mainland that has a funny dialogue with him…she is literally referred to, like multiple times each show as “Haole Girl”). People that did not grow up here have this misconception that the word itself is derogatory. Well I have heard the word used thousands of times in many different contexts and it without a negative qualifier it is most definitely NOT.

  • Hilarious

    Hello, can someone please tell me what Cheeee huuuu means in English

    • Hilarious, I’m writing up a separate blog post with my interpretation of cheehoo right now. I’ll post it on Thursday.

    • Andrew Avilar

      cheehoo ** depends how you use it…its like saying ..when laughing in a group of peeps we laugh and say cheehoo! ha ha ha!..thats how i use it.

  • haole

    Haole. Means no aloha spirit. So even native Hawaiians can haole if they mean peoples.

  • born and raised Kaimuki

    Do NOT use shaka sign as apology for cutting someone off in traffic… unless you want them to come of their car and punch you in the face. I recommend an open palm and lowered head. If the one you cut off then returns your humble gesture or makes shaka (“It’s cool/That’s okay”) then you can return with shaka (“Thanks”). If you initiate shaka after you cut someone off in traffic, the other driver may take it as shaka (“I win”/celebratory). They might not get out of the car or chase you, but they still might be offended by your random use of local gestures. Please don’t randomly think shaka gets you out of offensive, even if accidentally offensive, behavior.

  • Andrew Avilar

    what about cheehoo! or what we call houle’s that move to our nieghborhoods . tha Local Mike is what we say

    • Ha, never heard of Local Mike but I can see it. And Slick Vic does a mean cheehoo!

  • killermiller

    haole is DEFINITELY both derogatory and demeaning!

  • Haole here, born and raised in Hawaii. The term haole is not inherently derogatory, as some commenters are claiming. It is a racial designation, originating from the Hawaiian “without breath”, since the first white people refused the traditional Hawaiian greeting that involved touching foreheads and sharing a breath. Since that first meeting, haoles and Hawaiians have had more than a few negative encounters. Racial tension does exist, but haole is only used as a derogatory term when a haole is reinforcing negative stereotypes about white people. If you’re not a jerk, you’ll never be called an “effing haole”.

  • Marty Sweeten

    Bottom line is that a lot of Hawaiians are racist fuc$#
    Many of no different than any other small minded small town redneck.
    Nobody wants to say it because they are attractive and come from paradise.
    I’ve been going to HI for about 10 years (on average 4 times a year) and they simply are backward ass rednecks.

    I finally saw it when some locals put words to my confused face.

    On the flip side of that observation, I can’t blame them. Main-landers look pretty stupid when where there. If you step back and look at vacationers faces, they seem like they don’t have a brain in their head.

  • Dave Phillips

    What about “Da Kine”? That word can mean anything.

  • This was a retarded article. We don’t use most of these phrases (or “slang”). Nice generalizations though!

    P.S. We don’t go around saying “shaka.”

    • Good point. Mainly was for those coming to Hawaii to understand some (of the many) terms our local culture provides. Ha, true, we give the shaka, not say it, but at least, visitors know the name of that gesture.

      • Brian McMurty

        There is no culture in Hawaii. It’s a prime welfare state. Most locals are lazy and very racist. The people and the culture sucks! There is a huge difference between laid back and just LAZY! I lived there for 4 years as a teenager. I was involved in more than 30 altercations with local cowards. Samoans, filipino – the people are pathetic LOSERS!

      • Kalani Dapitan

        I see you have then, earned the right to be called a haole. With such a hate for people you were obviously taught to fear, look down on, and think so little of…. no wonder you are the way you are.
        No culture here? The culture here is love and acceptance, it’s one of respect for others and of your self. To say all are the same is to show your closed mindedness toward you self and the only one your putting down is your self.

    • Hipolito123

      I remember the hand signal meaning “hang loose” in the days of Bu La’Ia when I lived there.

  • Stafford Sanpei

    wat is da correct spelling fo “huki pau” or “hu’uki pau ” ?

  • red_slider

    might this clear up the whole ‘haole’ thing> — ‘haole’ means whatever the expression on the face of the person using it says it means. Go by that and you no go wrong.

  • Jimmy Thomson

    a question i have is what is sure will spell wrong.. “kavicka”?

    • I think you mean Kawika. Essentially, that’s the name “David” in Hawaiian.

  • Brian McMurty

    Hawaii is probably the MOST racist state in the US! It has far too few reported hate crimes for its population because they explain them as road rage or something else. If white people knew how hated they were Hawaii would not be a tourist destination.


    hawaiians are lazy trash bags. only people worth anything here are tourists, military, and japanese.

  • vikingphysicist

    Haole means foreign. It is a misconception to spell that it is meant to be spent Ha’ole, which would mean without breath. Nowadays most people in Hawaii think it means white but I still know plenty of Hawaiians who differentiate between haole people with a mainland lifestyle and local white people.

  • Todd Wheeler

    haole means without a soul

  • john

    Born 1957 and rises on Ohau…. haole was never used in respect because the foreigner never gave us respect ,didn’t understand the real effect till i moved to Brazil where they call all foreigners including Hawaiians gringos. It has a bad effect on me but not on the other foreigners….. still the truth they have no respect i don’t care what south Americans say.