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Don't huhu, be lulu

Week 25, Episode 50

Aloha mai no, aloha aku;
o ka huhu ka mea e ola ʻole ai.

When love is given, love should be returned;
anger is the thing that gives no life.

Ah, this melody of the Hawaiian language! It makes you smile with appreciation of the wisdom and the power that just 12 letters and a flipped comma can have. I love the simplicity of the Hawaiians words and their unexpected depth and versatility.

In which other language just one letter can have a multitude of meanings?

athe jawbone; and; then, when; there; until; to burn (as a fire or as a lamp);

enot the same, other, another;

ito speak, to address; to adopt; stingy; to, in;

o to pierce; to extend or reach out; to dip; to call loudly to; of, belonging to; provision for a journey; a sound of a small bell; fork;

ugrief, sorrow; to meditate on or contemplate; to intend; to desire earnestly.

And if you triple that, you still get words!

aaahospitable, friendly;

eee to rise up with a furtive look;

iiibelow the ordinary size, dwarfish;

oooto be parsimonious, thrifty;

uuuto stammer.

Of course, there are words with more "complicated" structure than that. For example, the word I've mentioned before—mana—doesn't only mean "supernatural power", it also means "to branch out". Doubled, this word—manamana—becomes a noun or an adjective. And if we mix it with lima (hand), we'll get a "branch of a hand", i.e. "finger". More to that, add up nui (great, large in size), and we've got—manamananui—yes, "thumb"!

It seems that the most favorite Hawaiian way to make words is to double them up:

akaakato laugh,



heluheluto read,

huhu — angry, to be angry ("You look huhu"),


iliilismall, little,

kiwikiwito bend, to turn,



lulu — calm, quiet,

makamakaintimate friend, beloved,

minaminato regret,

nahinahisoft, gentle,

olaolato gargle, to snore in sleep,

pukupukuto frown ("Don't you pukupuku at me!"),

ukaukato eat to fullness beyond desire,

unaunatired, weak, exhausted,


wikiwikifast, quickly.

Here is the famous example of a Hawaiian word like that: humuhumunukunuku'āpua'a (click to hear the pronunciation). It is easier to understand it if divided into parts it consists of: humuhumu ‎("triggerfish") + nuku ‎("snout") + nuku ‎("blunt") + ā ‎(conjunction between two adjectives) + puaʻa ‎("pig") = triggerfish with a snout that is blunt and pig-like.

Curious enough, mama in Hawaiian doesn't mean "mother", but "light"; and papa is no "father", but "board." If you're wondering what you call your parents then, it will be Makuahine (maku + wahine"fully grown woman"), or , and Makuakāne (maku + kāne "fully grown man"), or , respectively.

I can go on and on about Hawaiian words, they all seem incredibly beautiful and happy to me :) But go ahead and check for yourself all the words you want in this dictionary. Enjoy the sounds of the colors (melemeleyellow, ʻeleʻeleblack, etc.), numbers (ʻolezero, ʻumiten, etc.), and many other amazing Hawaiian words (like pupuappetizer, aoworld, waiwater, etc.).

To conclude, helpful expressions to go:

No. — Indeed / Truly / True.

Hoi. — Certainly.

No hoi. — Verily / Indeed.

ʻAe (or U / or E). — Yes.

Oia. — That is it / Yes / Truly.

ʻAʻole. — No.

Aʻole pilikia! — No problem / You are welcome!

Mau Loa. — Forever.

Me ke aloha. — With love.

This enjoyable journey through the language with just 12 letters is coming to an end, so let's look forward to one of the languages that has quite a lot of those—Hindi!

Pomaikaʻi! (Poe-mah-ee-kah-ee) Good luck!

" Give your ALOHA to this article! "

Discover more about Hawaiian and other languages at!

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