Hale is a word we all use in Hawaiʻi whether we speak Hawaiian or not. And hale, meaning house or building, is our Hawaiian Word of the Day. There are many kinds of hale from the hale ʻaina, or restaurant, to the hale pule, or church.
Hema means left or left side. When you watch a marching group pass by, you will often hear, “hema, hema, hema, ʻākau hema,” or “left, left, left, right, left.” It also means “south,” as in Kona hema – south Kona.
Ala, meaning path or way, is used in so many of our street names, that is pretty well known, and most people know that it is a redundancy to say “Ala Wai Boulevard” or “Ala Moana Boulevard.” Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is alanui, the natural extension of ala. It means a big path, or a big way, a highway or a freeway.
Laiki is how we say rice in Hawaiian. And since we who live in the Islands eat so much of it, you should know how to say it in Hawaiian. Like so many of our newer Hawaiian words, it was borrowed from the English language.
Poʻe means people, persons, even an entire population. The Hawaiian people are called kapoʻe Hawaiʻi. Poʻe can also be used as a plural marker when talking about people, as in kaʻu poʻe keiki – my children.
Pekelala is another Hawaiian word borrowed from English, and it means federal. If you listen to the news of the day discussed in Hawaiian, you often hear pekelala, because so much of what is in the news relates to the U.S. federal government.
Pō means: night, darkness, obscurity, the realm of the gods. The Hawaiian day begins at nightfall, so instead of using the word for the days of the week, as is done in English, we use pō for nights, and then modify it to make the nights of the week. For example pō akihi or pō alua.
Our Hawaiian Word of the Day is another frequently mispronounced Hawaiian place name: Keʻeaumoku. That well-driven street was probably named for a governor of Maui who bore the same name as his father, and ally, and father-in-law of Kamehameha the First.
One of the best known Hawaiian words is hula, meaning to dance. Hula is a very generic term for dance. There are many specific types of hula. Don't confuse hula with hulahula, the word you learned for ballroom dancing, and don't say, "hula dancing" – that's redundant.
Hapa is most often used in English conversation to describe something that is mixed or part of something. And although, it comes from the English word “half,” it means portion or part. We hear hapa used in hapa Hawaiʻi for part Hawaiian, or hapa haole for part foreign.
Another beautiful Hawaiian name that is so often mispronounced is Kalanianaʻole and it means “the chief without measure.” It is a name given to so many prominent landmarks and the one that seems to give a lot of trouble to people in the broadcast media.
Iulai is the Hawaiian name for the month of July, the seventh month of the modern calendar. Yes, Iulai is a borrowed word from English. In fact, all of the names of the months of the calendar we now use are borrowed. Since the Hawaiian calendar of months did not coincide with that of the Europeans.