With black-sand beaches, active volcanoes, and the right ingredients for a double rainbow, it’s no question that the four main islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and “The Big Island” in the Hawaiian archipelago possess an other-worldly majesty.
This week, I’m writing to you from the enchanting island of Hawaii, otherwise known as “The Big Island.”
As its name implies, this youngest of the four main islands is also the largest. And it’s here that I’m soaking in Hawaii’s feel-good culture and rich heritage.
To celebrate, I’ve curated the below list of seven awesome Hawaiian words to live by that’ll do wonders for your mental health and personal well-being.
7 AWESOME HAWAIIAN WORDS TO LIVE BY
#1. Aloha (uh-LOW-hah)
The obvious entry — Aloha — comes from the Hawaiian words Alo meaning “presence” and Ha meaning “breath.”
You’re probably familiar with this Hawaiian word as both a greeting (“hello”) and a parting of ways (“goodbye.”)
But aloha has other connotations, too.
It means love, affection, peace, compassion, mercy, kindness, sympathy, pity, and charity, to name a few.
The profound significance of aloha has even made its way into Hawaiian State Law.
Passed in 1986, the “Aloha Spirit” law states that “each person must think and emote good feelings to others.”
As in, you are hereby ordered to be kind and refrain from acts of “douchebaggery” while residing in or visiting any one of Hawaii’s amazing islands.
It makes you want to write a letter to Congress and request the passage of a federal kindness law for the continental U.S., too.
It can have one of those cool acronyms like “ADACA” (uh-DAH-kuh) — the “Anti Douchebaggery Act of Continental America.” 🙂
#2. Pono (POE-no)
Pono, meaning “righteousness,” is a well-known Hawaiian word.
It’s so influential in Hawaiian culture, in fact, that it even appears in the Hawaii State motto:
Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono.
Meaning, “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
Like many other Hawaiian words, pono is a polysemous term — a word that bears multiple meanings.
Some of the other meanings of pono are “hope, goodness, moral, prosperous, dutiful, proper, virtuous and fair.”
In addition to its cameo in the Hawaii State motto, pono’s also popular in the Hawaiian vernacular.
“Living pono,” for instance, is part of the lifeblood of Hawaiian culture. By living pono, you choose to live altruistically.
That is, you aspire to live harmoniously with others and use your “moral compass” to guide your decisions.
Living pono will no doubt elevate your mental health to brilliant new heights.
#3. Aina (ah-EE-nuh)
The Hawaiian word, Aina, is grounded in nature.
Meaning “land,” aina illustrates the deep connection between Hawaiian people, their rich culture, and the beautiful islands they inhabit.
Aloha ‘Aina is a Hawaiian expression meaning “love of the land.”
And what’s not to love with Hawaii’s breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and the sacred site of Mauna Kea — a snow-covered summit that rises over 13,000 feet above sea level?
What’s more, Aina teaches the importance of outdoor living — of forging a meaningful relationship with nature — which is totally up the “mental health alley.”
But don’t take it from me —
Check out this mental health study that supports aina and shows how spending time outdoors can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression!
#4. Ohana (oh-HAH-nuh)
“Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind.” — “Lilo and Stitch”
Ohana takes root in the Hawaiian word, oha.
Oha refers to the new shoots of the kalo or taro plant, one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world.
Kalo abounds across the Hawaiian archipelago and has become a beloved food staple for many Hawaiians.
The importance of kalo is so embedded in Hawaiian culture that there’s even a creation story around it.
Legend has it that the Hawaiian Sky Father, Wākea, and its Earth Mother, Papa, had a stillborn child that they buried ceremoniously. Out of that burial spot, the first kalo plant grew.
Mix oha with kōhanga — the Maori word for “nest” — and you get the lovely Hawaiian word, ohana.
#5. Ikaika (ee-KAH-ee-kuh)
Ikaika is the Hawaiian word for strength.
It also means “powerful, sturdy, stalwart, mighty, vigorous, and determined.”
A little ikaika is what you’ll need to invoke in a post-pandemic world where your mental health may face an unprecedented, uphill battle.
Luckily, one way to shake off the post-pandemic jitters is to start traveling again, as I did, and live by the seven words in this article.
And don’t forget QWERTYdelight’s key message:
There’s no greater purpose in life than to create delightful experiences for yourself and those around you.
#6. Shaka (SHAH-kuh)
Shaka is one of the raddest Hawaiian words out there. It’s responsible for the classic hand symbol pictured above.
To be fair, shaka is more of an attitude than an actual Hawaiian word. (Semantics, amirite?)
That said, I’d be remiss not to add it to this list of seven awesome Hawaiian words to live by.
After all, shaka oozes positivity with its “high tides & good vibes” message.
It’s popular among surfers, divers, snorkelers, parasailers, and anyone else who feels the gravitational pull of the ocean.
It’s also one of the most effortless Hawaiian words in the dictionary.
To express shaka, all you have to do is stick out your pinky and thumb fingers (and perhaps your tongue, too, for good measure!)
#7. Mana (MAN-uh)
The last of the Hawaiian words in our bespoke list is Mana, meaning “power.”
To be clear, mana isn’t about seeking power to exert over others and get what you want.
Instead, mana is a spiritual construct — a life force, energy, and healing power that permeates the universe. It’s intended for the greater good rather than individual gain.
In Hawaiian culture, mana is social capital.
Think of it as an invisible currency that you can amass by doing meaningful work, forging healthy relationships, and manifesting all things “Aloha.”
Conversely, you’ll lose mana if you do awful work, forge nasty relationships, and eschew all things “Aloha.”
So, grow some serious mana, dear reader, and cash it in for some sweet goodness!
You can “mahalo” us later. 😉