Hawaiian Glossary: The Letter M


This glossary does not go from A to Z. The Hawaiian language only has five vowels and twelve consonants, out of which twelve letters, a, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, t, u, and w, are represented here.

This is the glossary chapter for the letter M. Below, there are links to various parts of the travel guide, but the best way to return to where you've just been is to use the "BACK" button or function in your browser.


M

*Words marked with an asterisk (*) are used commonly throughout the islands.

mahalo*
thank you. Mahalo nui means "big thanks" or "thank you very much."
mahele
division. The "Great Mahele" of 1848 changed Hawaii forever when the traditional common lands were broken up into privately owned plots.
mahimahi*
a favorite eating fish. Often called a dolphin, but a mahimahi is a true fish, not a cetacean.
mahu
a homosexual; often used derisively like "fag" or "queer"
maile
a fragrant vine used in traditional lei. It looks ordinary but smells delightful.
makaainana
a commoner; a person "belonging" to the aina (land), who supported the ali'i by fishing and farming and as a warrior
makai*
toward the sea; used by most islanders when giving directions
make
dead; deceased
malihini*
newcomer; tenderfoot; recent arrival
malo
the native Hawaiian loincloth. Never worn anymore except at festivals or pageants.
mana*
power from the spirit world; innate energy of all things animate or inanimate; the grace of god. Mana could be passed on from one person to another, or even stolen. Great care was taken to protect the ali'i from having their mana defiled. Commoners were required to lie flat on the ground and cover their faces whenever a great ali'i approached. Kahuna were often employed in the regaining or transference of mana.
manauahi
free; gratis; extra
manini
stingy; tight. A Hawaiianized word taken from the name of Don Francisco Marin, who was instrumental in bringing many fruits and plants to Hawaii. He was known for never sharing any of the bounty from his substantial gardens on Vineyard Street in Honolulu.
mauka*
toward the mountains; used by most islanders when giving directions
mauna
mountain. Often combined with other words to be more descriptive, such as Mauna Kea ("White Mountain").
mele
a song or chant in the Hawaiian oral tradition that records the history and genealogies of the ali'i. Also see kanaenae and Kumulipo.
menehune
the legendary "little people" of Hawaii. Like leprechauns, they are said to have shunned humans and possess magical powers. Stone walls said to have been completed in one night are often attributed to them. Some historians argue that they actually existed and were the aboriginals of Hawaii, inhabiting the islands before the coming of the Polynesians.
moa
chicken; fowl
moana*
the ocean; the sea. Many businesses and hotels as well as places have moana as part of their name.
moe
sleep
moolelo
ancient tales kept alive by the oral tradition and recited only by day
muumuu*
a "Mother Hubbard," an ankle-length dress with a high neckline introduced by the missionaries to cover the nakedness of the Hawaiians. It has become fashionable attire for almost any occasion in Hawaii.