10 Hawaiian words of wisdom to live by

The Hawaiian language, also known as ʻōlelo, is one of the most eloquent and poetic languages in the world. It often makes use of comparisons to nature or natural phenomenons to describe a person, event, or feeling.

Today, we’d like to share 10 ʻōlelo noʻeau, or insightful proverbs, that encapsulate the richness, wisdom, and unique perspectives of Hawaiian culture.

These thoughtful and inspiring pieces of wisdom are from the book ʻŌlelo Noʻeau by Mary Kawena Pukui, a Native Hawaiian scholar and writer who dedicated her life to preserving and elevating the Hawaiian language.

Ola na iwi, e ho’i a pau

“The bones live on.”

Embrace the valuable wisdom and influence of grandparents.

ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi

“All knowledge is not learned in one school.”

There is waiwai (value) from all resources, and not all knowledge is the same. Let’s not hoʻokano (act superior) when it comes to knowledge.

Kūlia i ka nuʻu

“Strive to reach the highest.”

[This is the motto of Queen Kapiʻolani.]

ʻO ke kahua ma mua, ma hope ke kūkulu.

“The site first, and then the construction.”

Learn all you can, then practice.

Mahalo i ka mea i loaʻa

Be thankful for what you have.

O na hoku no na kiu o ka lani

“The stars are the eyes of heaven.”

The stars secretly observe all.

Nānā ka maka, hoʻolohe ka pepeiao, paʻa ka waha

Observe with the eyes; listen with the ears; shut the mouth.
Thus one learns.

ʻAʻohe ʻulu e loaʻa i ka pōkole o ka lou

“No breadfruit can be reached when the picking stick is too short.”

There can be no success without preparation.

Hoʻokahi nō lā o ka malihini

“A stranger only for a day.”

After the first day as a guest, one must help with the work.

A’a i ka hula, waiho i ka maka’u i ka hale

Dare to dance, leave shame at home.

Don’t hold back — make it count!

Image credits: Peter Vanosdall, Sebastien Gabriel, Kvnga, Balazs Busznyak, Marc Szeglat, Sean, Amanda Phung, Studio Kealaula, Jakob Owens, Jeremy Bishop

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