Master the Art of Pronouncing Hawaiian Words

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Master the Art of Pronouncing Hawaiian Words

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Hawaiian Language 2.1 The Alphabet 2.2 Pronunciation of Vowels 2.3 Pronunciation of Consonants
  3. Common Mispronunciations 3.1 Like-like Highway 3.2 Aka-hi-a 3.3 Iolani 3.4 Kalakaua
  4. Famous Hawaiian Words 4.1 Waikiki 4.2 Aloha 4.3 Ohana
  5. Tips for Pronouncing Hawaiian Words
  6. Conclusion

The Hawaiian Language: Pronouncing Words Correctly

Have you ever wanted to visit Hawaii but weren't sure how to pronounce its unique words? Look no further! In this article, we will guide you through the pronunciation of Hawaiian words so that you can navigate the island with confidence. The Hawaiian language is fascinating, with its short alphabet consisting of only 12 letters. Understanding the correct pronunciation of these letters will enable you to pronounce almost any Hawaiian word effortlessly.

The Hawaiian Language

The first step to pronouncing Hawaiian words correctly is to familiarize yourself with the Hawaiian alphabet. Unlike the English alphabet, which has 26 letters, the Hawaiian alphabet comprises just 12 letters. These letters are: A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. Additionally, there are two special characters known as the 'okina and kahakō (a dash) that influence pronunciation.

Pronunciation of Vowels

The vowels are the foundation of the Hawaiian language and play a crucial role in pronunciation. In Hawaiian, the vowels are pronounced as follows:

  • "A" is pronounced as "ah"
  • "E" is pronounced as "eh"
  • "I" is pronounced as "ee"
  • "O" is pronounced as "oh"
  • "U" is pronounced as "oo"

It's important to note that every time you see the letter "A" in a word, it is pronounced as "ah." Similarly, "I" is always pronounced as "ee," "E" as "eh," "O" as "oh," and "U" as "oo." By mastering the pronunciation of these vowels, you'll have a solid foundation for pronouncing Hawaiian words accurately.

Pronunciation of Consonants

While the vowels carry significant weight in the Hawaiian language, it's crucial to understand the pronunciation of consonants as well. The consonants in Hawaiian are: H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. Here is a guide to pronouncing them correctly:

  • "H" is pronounced as "hey"
  • "K" is pronounced as in "kite"
  • "L" is pronounced as in "law"
  • "M" is pronounced as in "family"
  • "N" is pronounced as in "new"
  • "P" is pronounced as though you're saying "pee"
  • "W" is pronounced as in "way"

It's helpful to practice pronouncing these consonants individually and then in combination with vowels to get a feel for the Hawaiian language's unique sounds.

Common Mispronunciations

Now that you have a basic understanding of the Hawaiian alphabet and pronunciation, let's address some common mispronunciations that visitors to Hawaii often encounter.

Like-like Highway

One frequently mispronounced word is "Likelike Highway." Despite its spelling, it is pronounced as "Lee-ke-lee-ke." Remember to replace the letter "I" with "ee" and the letter "E" with "eh" when pronouncing the word to ensure accuracy.


Another word often mispronounced is "Aka-hi-a." To pronounce it correctly, say "Ah-ka-hee-ah." The letter "I" is pronounced as "ee," and the letter "A" is pronounced as "ah."


"Iolani" is a word that holds great significance in Hawaiian history, as it refers to the last Hawaiian monarch. To pronounce it accurately, say "Ee-oh-lah-nee," with the emphasis on the "lah" sound.


"Kalakaua" is another important Hawaiian word, representing a famous street in Honolulu. To pronounce it correctly, say "Kah-lah-kah-oo-ah." Remember to prolong the "oo" sound when pronouncing the word.

Famous Hawaiian Words

In addition to these commonly mispronounced words, there are several famous Hawaiian words you should know to enhance your understanding of the language. These include "Waikiki," meaning "spouting water," "Aloha," which is the famous Hawaiian greeting, and "Ohana," representing the concept of family and community.

Tips for Pronouncing Hawaiian Words

To conclude, here are some handy tips for pronouncing Hawaiian words with confidence:

  • Master the correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian vowels (A, E, I, O, U).
  • Practice pronouncing the consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W) individually and in combination with vowels.
  • Pay attention to special characters like the 'okina (') and kahakō (a dash) and follow the guidance they provide.
  • Familiarize yourself with commonly mispronounced words to avoid common pitfalls.
  • Practice, practice, practice! The more you immerse yourself in the Hawaiian language, the easier it will become to pronounce words correctly.

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to pronouncing Hawaiian words like a pro. So go ahead, explore the beautiful Hawaiian islands and impress the locals with your newfound knowledge of their language!


Q: Is the Hawaiian language difficult to learn? A: While the Hawaiian language may seem challenging at first, with its unique alphabet and pronunciation, with practice and dedication, it becomes easier to grasp.

Q: Are there any resources available for learning the Hawaiian language? A: Yes, there are various online resources, language courses, and dictionaries available to help you learn the Hawaiian language.

Q: Can I communicate with locals in English while visiting Hawaii? A: Yes, English is widely spoken and understood in Hawaii. However, making an effort to learn and pronounce Hawaiian words correctly can be greatly appreciated by the locals.

Q: Are there any other Hawaiian words I should know? A: Along with the famous words mentioned in this article, it's always beneficial to familiarize yourself with basic greetings and phrases such as "Mahalo" (thank you) and "Aloha kakahiaka" (good morning).

Q: Is it important to learn the pronunciation of Hawaiian words correctly? A: Learning the correct pronunciation of Hawaiian words not only shows respect for the culture and traditions but also enhances your understanding of the language and its unique meanings.

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