The 22 handiest words used by Hawaii’s locals

First, there was the list of ultra-useful Hawaiian words. Now it’s time to focus on the local everyday vernacular of our kama’aina (local residents).

As you’ll see, local Hawaii vernacular uses a mix of words from English, Hawaiian, Japanese and other languages as well as some hybrid/made-up words.

Before you read on, a word of advice: this list is more for learning about than it is for actual speaking (you may get some weird looks if you try). Therefore, speak at your own risk. Ready?

Slippers / “slippahs”

Other people call them thongs, flip flops or sandals. In Hawaii, we call them slippers and usually pronounce them “slipp-ahs.”


Try not to giggle — okole means “butt.”


Puka is the Hawaiian word for “hole. ” Very handy.


Like an okole, everyone has a piko — aka “bellybutton.”


Howzit is the local way of saying “How’s it going?”

Da kine

Da kine is such an awesome and useful term that we’re repeating it from the Hawaiian word list.

Da kine means “that thing.” It can be used in vague terms when you can’t remember the thing in question: “Where did you put da kine?”

It can also be used to describe something you know about but don’t want to explicitly mention, like “Watch out for him — he get da kine.”


Brah is one of the most common terms used in Hawaii. It means “dude” or “mate.”


Shoots is a super handy term which basically means “sure,” “okay,” “right on.” You can even combine brah and shoots for “Shoots, brah!”

Poke (proper pronunciation)

Most of you probably know poke is (yummy Hawaiian style raw fish), but have you ever stopped and wondered how to pronounce it properly? Well, here you go — it’s “po-kay.”


A shaka is a hand gesture that means hello, what’s up or aloha. Make a fist, then fully extend your pinky and thumb.


A haole is an outsider, or a person of Caucasian descent (or both). Haole can be sometimes be used in an insulting way.

Small kine / “skosh”

“Just a little”


Choke means “a lot” of something.


Lua is the Hawaiian word for bathroom.

Pau hana

Pau hana is that wonderful time of day after work, before dinner, when you can just kick back and enjoy a beverage and snack (pupu) with good company.


pupu is an appetizer, tapa or hors d’oeuvre.


To grind is “to eat.”

Hana hou

Hana hou means “encore.”


Kapu means sacred or forbidden. It can also be used in casual terms, as in “Nani just kapu-ed my surfboard, so I can’t paddle out right now.”

Learn more about kapu here.


Hapa refers to someone that’s half or mixed race.


Need a hand with your next Maui vacation? Please contact the Sunny Maui Vacations team at or call 808-240-1311, ext. 21. We’ll find you the best vacation rental condo in South Maui and help you with any and all recommendations and activities across Maui (chat with our in-house Concierge at extension 71).

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