Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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.

Glossary

(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.

Kapiʻolani Community College - © 2001-2004. All Rights Reserved.
https://guides.library.kapiolani.hawaii.edu/apdl/oahu
Content Manager: Dennis Kawaharada - dennisk@hawaii.edu
Web Manager: KCC Library - kapcc-diglib@laulima.hawaii.edu
Last Modified: 08-Aug-2012 6:45 HST