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Traditions of Oʻahu: Glossary

Stories of this island before high-rises, freeways and hotels, before sugar plantations and pineapple fields, before churches and the Bible.


(Notes on fish from Titcomb)

'ae: yes.

'ahi: albacore, or yellow-fin tuna; trolled for with hook and line in the deep sea; 75-200 pounds; in season from May to August; 'ono; eaten raw, baked, or dried.

ahupua'a: land division extending from uplands to sea.

'ai: vegetable food, often specifically poi; products of the land; cf. i'a.

ahole or aholehole: a perch-like fish, 6-10 inches long; silvery gray on top, whitish below; found near shore living in lava or coral caves (lua); 'ono; eaten raw, dried, salted, or broiled on hot coals.

'ai: to eat; food; specifically vegetable food, like taro, sweet potatoes, poi, etc., as opposed to i'a, meat or fish.

'aina: land; "that which feeds."

aku: bonito, or skipjack tuna; 2-3 feet long; caught using a pa (see note 18 in the story of 'Ai'ai for a description of aku fishing); considered the most 'ono fish by some Hawaiians; every part was eaten, from head to tail, raw, dried, or baked.

akua: god, spirit, or goblin.

akule: big-eyed scad; 7-20 inches long; bluish, with brassy tints, whitish around the stomach; found in big bays in large schools and netted from canoes; a favorite fish for drying.

ali'i: a chief; the chiefly class.

aloali'i: in the presence of chiefs, royal court.

'anae: mullet.

anahulu: a ten-day division of the 30-day lunar month

anana: a fathom; the distance from fingertip to fingertip of a man with his arms stretched out.

'ape: large taro-like plant.

'auki: stem of a ti plant.

'aumakua: ancestral family god; 'aumakua (plural form).

au-we: Oh! Alas!

'awa: a pepper shrub; the root was used to make a narcotic drink.

'aweoweo: a big-eyed fish with rough, red or bronze skin; 12-20 inches long; found in shoal waters inside the reef, sometimes in large schools; caught with net or hook and line; good for broiling or drying.

E: a vocative preceding the name of the person addressed. "Say there!" "Hey!"

'elepaio: a native bird; species of flycatcher.

haka: a medium for communication with the spirit world.

haku: master, lord.

hala: pandanus tree; its leaves, with thorny edges stripped off, were woven into mats, baskets, and hats.

hale: a traditional house made from poles lashed together and thatched with pili grass.

hanai: provider.

hapu'u: grouper (fish).

hau: a lowland tree; its soft, light wood was used for net floats and canoe outriggers; the sap and flowers were used medicinally.

he'e: squid.

heiau: place of worship.

hinalea: a wrasse; predominantly dark blue, green, or black, with sometimes colorful markings; 3-10 inches long; lives on reefs; see the story of Kalamainu'u for the origin of the basket trap used to catch this fish; usually eaten raw.

hoewa'a: paddlers.

honu: turtle.

i'a: seafood, meat, or anything eaten as a relish with 'ai , or vegetable food.

'ie: aerial roots of the 'ie'ie vine.

'ilima: native shrubs bearing yellow, orange, green, or dull red flowers; used for leis or to make a mild laxative.

'ilio: dog.

imu: cooking pit; an underground oven.

'ina: young sea urchin.

'iwa: frigate bird.

kahala: amberjack, six or more feet long; silvery blue with yellow stripe along each side; taken with hook and line in the deep sea; eaten baked or salted.

kahili: a feather standard symbolic of royalty.

kahuna: priest or expert; plural: kahuna.

kalai-wa'a: canoe carver.kala: surgeonfish with a horn on its forehead; named for the seaweed on which it feeds (limu kala); 12-24 inches long; taken in baskets or nets, or speared; it has a strong odor, but is well liked; eaten broiled, baked, or dried.

kalo: taro, the staple food of ancient Hawai'i.

kama'aina: "child of the land"; native born.

kapa: bark cloth; a tapa wrap or covering; kapa kihei: cape made of kapa; kapa mamaki: tapa made from mamaki bark.

kapu: taboo; sacred.

Kau: the hot, dry season, beginning in Ikiiki, or about May and ending in Ikuwa, or about October.

kauwa: a servant; an outcast.

keiki: child, offspring, boy, son; keiki kauwa: servant's child; keiki makua: full-grown offspring.

ki: a woody plant, leaves used for capes and skirts or for wrapping food to be cooked in an imu.

kilo: astronomer-astrologer.

kihei: a piece of bark-cloth worn over the shoulder.

kilu: a game in which a player on one side tossed a small gourd or coconut shell (a kilu) at an object placed in front of each player on the other side. A hit won a kiss; ten hits won the game.

ko: sugar cane.

koa: warrior.

ko'a, or ko'a ku'ula: a fishing shrine or house sacred to the fishing gods (to attract fish, make fish multiply, and insure a good catch; the shrine was a large stone or two, sometimes on a paved platform; or a heap of stones and coral rock near shore.

ko'ele: work done for a chief; Friday was called ko'ele because the work was often done on this day.

kukui: candlenut tree; its oily nut was burned in torches or chewed and spit on the ocean water to smooth the surface and increase the visibility into the depths.

kumu: goatfish; 5-16 inches long; found in both shallow and deep water; 'ono; eaten raw, broiled, or cooked in ti leaves; often used as a religious offering if a red fish was needed; taboo to women.

kupua: demigod; supernatural being with various forms.

kupuna: grandparent, ancestor; kupunawahine: grandmother; female ancestor.

ku'ula: a house or shrine dedicated to a fishing god; also a stone used to attract fish. The house was where the fishermen slept before going fishing for certain fish, such as the opelu; the men worshiped the fishing god, purified themselves with a ceremony (see Malo 209-10), and sometimes sought visions of schools of fish or the outcome of the expedition; the men were forbidden to go home and sleep with their wives.

lama: endemic ebony; hardwood trees with small flowers and fruits.

lau hala: pandanus leaf; cf. hala.

lawai'a: fisherman; to catch fish.

lehua: the red flower of the 'ohi'a tree.

lei palaoa: whale-tooth pendant; a symbol of royalty; the ali'i made kapu whales washed ashore, so they could use the bones to make these highly prized ornaments.

limu: plants living in fresh or salt water.

mai'a: bananas

maile: a native twining shrub with fragrant leaves.

maka'ainana: common people, as opposed to ali'i, or royalty.; lit. "people who attend to the land"; the word is a cognate of Marquesan-Tahitian mata'eina'a, meaning "land-owning descent group."

makai: toward the sea.

malihini: stranger, newcomer, guest, visitor; cf. kama'aina.

malau: a light canoe for fishing; a live-bait tank used in aku fishing; a bait-carrying canoe.

malo: loincloth worn by males

malolo: flying fish; 9-12 inches long; schools in the open ocean were surrounded and netted; abundant from March to June; 'ono; eaten raw or cooked in ti leaves.

manini: a striped surgeonfish; 3-5 inches long; a common, popular reef fish; 'ono, eaten raw or cooked.

mano: shark; Beckley ("Hawaiian Fisheries" 10-12) and Kamakau (Works 87) give fascinating accounts of shark fishing.

mamaki: small native tree; its bark was used to make tapa.

mauka: on land, this word means "toward the mountains"; at sea, it means "toward shore."

mele: song, chant, or poem.

milo: a tree resembling the hau tree.

moa: chicken.

moi: threadfish.

moku: district.

mo'o: lizard; reptile of any kind; water spirit.

muku: the length from fingertips of one hand to the elbow of the other arm when both arms are extended to the side.

nehu: anchovy; 1-2 inches long; bluish with a silvery band on each side, from head to tail; netted in deep water; eaten raw, pickled, or dried; used for bait to catch larger fish.

nenue: rudder or pilot fish; 1-2 feet long; great variation in color; netted just inside or outisde the reef or breakers; 'ono, especially raw.

noio: noddy tern.

'ohana: family, kin group.

'ohi'a: a native hard-wood tree with red flowers.

'o'io: bonefish; 2-3 feet long; silvery; popular food fish; travels in schools; caught with nets just inside or outside the reef or breakers.

olona: a native shrub; the bark was twisted into a strong, durable cord.

'ono: delicious; to savor.

'o'opu: goby fish.

'opae: fresh or salt-water shrimp; the freshwater ones were caught in mountain streams with a basket woven from the air roots of the 'ie'ie (a woody branching climber).

'opakapaka: blue or grey snapper.

'opelu: mackerel scad; 12 inches long; dark blue fading to white on belly; netted in deep water; 'ono; eaten raw, dried, or broiled.

'opihi: a limpet (shellfish with a conical shell)

pa: mother-of-pearl shell; pearl-shell lure; pa hi aku: pearl-shell lure for catching aku.

palani: a surgeon fish; 6-12 inches long; brownish, orange, or grey; netted near shore; strong odor, but well liked; eaten raw, broiled, or cooked in a calabash.

pali: cliff.

pao'o: a fish said to leap from pool to pool along the coast.

pa'u: a woman's skirt.

pili: a grass used for thatching.

po'e: person, people

po'e po'i 'uhane: a person who captures spirits of the dead or the living.

pohuehue: beach morning glory.

pua'a: pig.

puhi: eel; many varieties found in Hawaiian waters; one variety, the puhi pahu was known for devouring all seafood, so that pools near its haunt were empty; it was capable of biting off a toe or a finger of an unwary fisher; some varieties prized as food; taken by scoop net, basket trap, spear, hook and line, or hand; eaten cooked, not raw.

pumai'a: trunk of a banana plant.

puna: a type of coral which washed ashore during storms.

pupu: fish, chicken, or banana served with 'awa.

'uala: sweet potato.

uhu: parrot fish; 1-3 feet long; red or green; found along the shores of all the islands; abundant from May to July; caught with hook and line, in a reef trap, or with a net using a live decoy attached to a string to lure the fish in; 'ono; the flesh sometimes eaten dried or broiled, but preferred raw, especially the red variety, mixed with its mashed liver and seaweed.

uku: deep-sea snapper.

'ula'ula: red snapper; 17-30 inches long; red or rose with yellow or golden bands extending along upper half of body; 'ono, eaten raw, dried, or broiled. See note 4 in the legend of 'Ai'ai for a description of deep-sea fishing with hook and line for 'ula'ula.

ulua: crevalle; up to five feet long and weighing 100-125 pounds; light and dark varieties; caught with hook and line in deep water; eaten raw, baked, or broiled. "The eyes were well liked; stuffed into the belly before the fish was places in the imu."

wahine: women; wahine: women.

wai: fresh water.

wana: sea urchin.

wiliwili: a Hawaiian tree; the wood is very light and was used for surfboards, canoe outriggers, and net floats.

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