Hawaiian Glossary: The Letter P

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 P. 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.


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

smooth, ropey lava that looks like burnt pancake batter. Pa'hoehoe is now the correct geological term used to describe this type of lava found anywhere in the world.
marijuana; the state's most productive cash crop
a Chinese person. Can be derisive, depending on tone in which it is used. It is a bastardization of the Chinese word meaning "uncle."
a cliff; precipice. Hawaii's geology makes them quite common. The most famous are the pali of Oahu where a major battle was fought.
a Hawaiian cowboy. Derived from the Spanish espaniola. The first cowboys brought to Hawaii during the early 19th century were Mexicans from California.
hat. Except for the feathered helmets of the ali'i warriors of old Hawaii, hats were generally not worn. However, once the islanders saw their practical uses and how fashionable they were, they began weaving them from various materials and quickly became experts at manufacture and design.
finished; done; completed. Often combined into pau hana, which means end of work or quitting time.
long split skirt often worn by women when horseback riding. Last century, an island treat was pa'u riders in their beautiful dresses at Kapiolani Park in Honolulu. The tradition is carried on today at many of Hawaii's rodeos.
stink; bad smell; stench
trouble of any kind, big or small; bad times
a glutinous paste made from the pounded corn of taro which ferments slightly and has a light sour taste. Purplish in color, it's a staple at luaus, where it is called "one-, two-, or three-finger" poi, depending upon its thickness.
righteous or excellent
a hole of any size. Puka is used by all island residents, whether talking about a pinhole in a rubber boat or a tunnel through a mountain.
the tradition of sharing mates in practice before the missionaries came. Western seamen took advantage of it, and this led to the spreading of contagious diseases and eventually to the ultimate demise of the Hawaiian people.
bed; narrow couch. Used by all ethnic groups. To recline on a punee on a breezy lanai is a true island treat.
pu pu*
an appetizer; a snack; hors d'oeuvres; can be anything from cheese and crackers to sushi. Oftentimes, bars or nightclubs offer them free.
crazy; nuts; out of your mind
hill, as in Pu'u Ulaula ("Red Hill")