Correct Your Hawaiian Pronunciation with These 10 Words

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Correct Your Hawaiian Pronunciation with These 10 Words

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Common Mispronounced Hawaiian Words 2.1. Hawaii 2.2. Oahu 2.3. Honolulu 2.4. Aloha 2.5. Mahalo 2.6. Kalanianaole 2.7. Kaneohe 2.8. Hilo
  3. The Importance of Correct Pronunciation in Hawaii
  4. Conclusion

Common Mispronounced Hawaiian Words

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you come across a word or name and have no idea how to pronounce it? Well, you're not alone. In this article, we will be discussing 10 common Hawaiian words, places, or names that are often mispronounced, not only by visitors but also by locals. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of how to speak like a local, or at least avoid embarrassing mispronunciations.

1. Hawaii

Let's start with one of the most commonly mispronounced words in Hawaii itself - "Hawaii". Many people mistakenly pronounce it as "Hawaiian" or simply "Hawa-ee". The correct pronunciation is "Hawaii", with a slight pause between the two "i" sounds. If you want to sound even more correct or proper, you can say "Hawaii" with a "v" sound instead of the "w" sound.

2. Oahu

Another word that often falls victim to mispronunciation is "Oahu", the third-largest island in Hawaii. As a kid, I used to add an imaginary "w" in the word and said it as "Owahu". It wasn't until I grew up that I learned the proper pronunciation, which is simply "Oahu".

3. Honolulu

"Honolulu", the capital city of Hawaii, is also prone to mispronunciations. Even many locals, including myself, stumble over this word from time to time. If you speak fast, it's easy for "Honolulu" to come out as something like "Honoloo". It might seem like a small mistake, but it's embarrassing nonetheless. I'm personally working on perfecting my pronunciation of "Honolulu" to ensure I pay proper respect to the name of our beautiful city.

4. Aloha

In Hawaii, "Aloha" is a word you'll hear frequently, and surprisingly, it is often mispronounced by both visitors and locals. Many public speakers in Hawaii tend to open their speeches with a loud "a low ha", followed by the audience responding. While it's a local tradition, it's equivalent to saying "hello" - a phrase that is rarely used in everyday conversation. So, it's best to stick with a simple "Aloha" when greeting someone in Hawaii.

5. Mahalo

As tourists try to embrace Hawaiian culture, they often attempt to use common Hawaiian words such as "Mahalo" meaning "thank you". However, mispronunciations are common, with many tourists pronouncing it as "my halo". The confusion arises because the word "Halo" sounds similar and is more commonly used in the English language. Locals find this mispronunciation amusing and often joke about it.

6. Kalanianaole

The name "Kalanianaole" poses a significant challenge for both tourists and some locals. This is the name of a highway that stretches from downtown Honolulu to the east side of Oahu, passing through areas like Waimanalo. With its long and complex spelling, mispronunciations like "Kalaniolet" or simply repeating syllables like "Kalani-ano-ole" are common. Even one of the local newscasters struggles with pronouncing it correctly. It's one of those words that can be quite perplexing, but locals understand and are quick to correct mispronunciations.

7. Kaneohe

If you're from the Kaneohe area on the island of Oahu, you might have noticed that locals often mispronounce the name of their own city. Instead of saying "Kaneohe", many locals pronounce it as "Kaneo-wee". It's unclear where this mispronunciation originated, but it seems to be a common local characteristic. As someone who grew up in Kaneohe, I've been guilty of this mispronunciation myself. It's an ongoing work in progress to correct this mistake.

8. Hilo

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the town of Hilo has its fair share of mispronunciations. With its spelling closely resembling words like "high" and "silo", it's understandable why many people pronounce it as "High-lo" or "High-low". However, locals quickly correct this mispronunciation, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. Hilo is known for its charm, and you should definitely check it out on your visit to the island.

The Importance of Correct Pronunciation in Hawaii

Language plays a crucial role in cultural respect, and Hawaii is no exception. Correctly pronouncing names and words is a sign of respect for the Hawaiian culture and the people who call Hawaii home. By taking the time to learn and pronounce words correctly, we can ensure that we are accurately conveying information and paying homage to the rich cultural heritage of this beautiful state.


Mispronouncing words can happen to anyone, but it's important to strive for accuracy, especially when it comes to names of places and words that hold cultural significance. By familiarizing ourselves with the correct pronunciations of common Hawaiian words, we can engage in respectful communication and avoid any potential misunderstandings. So, the next time you find yourself in Hawaii, remember these proper pronunciations and embrace the rich linguistic culture of the islands.

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