Monday, February 13, 2012

Hawaiian Genealogy Words

(I’m not an expert, but I’ve picked up a few words in the Hawaiian language.  This list has helped me to figure out family relationships in letters, documents and newspaper stories. I hope it helps you, too.)

Ancestor – kahana
Genealogy- Ku'auhau  
Family – ohana
Name - inoa
Grandfather -  Kupuna  kane   - 
Grandmother-  kupuna wahine
                        Kupuna can be either grandparent –
                        Tutu is a nickname for either grandparent
Foreigner, or Caucasian – Haole
Mixed race -   Hapa Haole
Man, boy -   Kane    (also useful for finding the correct restroom!)
Woman, girl-    Wahine
Son-  Keikikane
Daughter -  Kaikamahine
Mother-  Makuahine
Father- Makuakane
Child, children-   Keiki
Cousin-   hoahanau
Uncle, aunt-     ‘anakala (masc.)    ‘anake (fem)
Marriage -   Male ‘ana
Bridgegroom -   Kahu lio
Bride-   Wahine male hou
Grandchild-   mo’opuna
Hanai – adoption/foster child (based on an ancient Hawaiian tradition of raising the children of a relative or another family member, popular among the ali’i) 
Ali’i – a person from a ruling or noble family

Months of the year
January - ‘Iaunuali
February - Pepeluali 
March - Malaki
April - ‘Apelila
May - Mei
June - Iune
July - Iulai
August - ‘Aukake
September - Kepakemapa
October - 'Okakopa
November - Nowemapa
December - Kekemapa

Here’s one you may come across – “Moku o Keawe”, it is the traditional name of the Big Island of Hawaii.  I had to look it up the first time I saw it.  The other major islands are (from West to East) Ni’ihau, Kauai, Oahu, Moloka’I, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Hawaii, often called “The Big Island” to avoid confusion with the whole state name.


Here are some additional kinships by Nakia Braffith at the NHGSOC Facebook page (Native Hawaiian Genealogy Society) posted 11 Jan 2011

“Kaikaina - younger sibling of same gender (sometimes pronounced keikeina)
Kaikua'ana - older sibling of same gender (sometimes pronounced keikua'ana)

Kaikuahine - sister of a male (sometimes pronounced keikuahine)
Kaikunane - brother of a female (sometimes pronounced keikunane)

affectionate (sometimes not always, depends)
Tunane/Kunane - brother
Tuahine/Kuahine – sister

Of course there's tita and palala - sistah and bruddah, palala is pronounce really fast often skipping the sound of the first "a"

Makuahine - mother, lady
Makuakane - father, man
In families where grandparents or other relatives hanai'd a keiki these could be terms used to refer to the parent. In olden days, these two words were also used to refer to anyone in the parent's generation, like aunties, uncles, parent's cousins, etc. Before we had words for them.

Kupunakane - grandfather
Kupunahine, Kupunawahine - grandmother

Kupuna - elder

Kupuna _____ Kuakahi - added after the kupuna word for "great"
Kupuna ______ Kualua - great great
Kupuna ______ Kuakolu - great great great

Tutu/Kuku - affectionate for grandparent often qualified with a kane or wahine/hine at the end, sometimes lady or man as well.  [Also used as a term of endearment or respect for any elderly person.]

ʻAnakē - Aunty 
ʻAnakala – Uncle [again, these words are used as terms of endearment or respect for anyone older than yourself.]

These are definitions as well as some of my own insights.


Now, to make things even more interesting, here are some official definitions from the Hawaiian dictionary posted at the Hawaiian History and Mythology Facebook page by Adam Keaweokai Knau Manolo on 31 January 2012:

"Brother – Kaiua’ana, kua’ana (older sibling of the same sex); kaikaina, kaina (younger sibling of the same sex); kaikunane, kunane (female); mua, hanau mua, hele mua (older sibling); hanau hope, hele hope (younger sibling); hoahanau kane (“brother” in the church); poki’I, muli poki’I (youngest sibling).
[there were similar entries for sister]
Cousin – hoahanau, kaukini (Male cousin of the parent’s generation), makua kane, makua kane hanauna (female cousin of the parent’s generation), makuahine, makuahine hanauna (male cousin of the parent-in-law), makuahunoai kane (female cousin of the parent-in-law) makuahunoai wahine.  Brother and sister are commonly used for cousin of one’s own generation.
Cousin terms are defined by generation across the line…"

It's not easy, but it is fascinating to learn not only vocabulary in Hawaiian, but to pick up some of the cultural attitudes regarding family as you try to understand these genealogy terms.

For the truly curious:

I've written almost 90 blog posts about Hawaii (stories, genealogies, travel to Hawaii, research trips to Hawaii, and more).  Click here to read these:  


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Hawaiian Genealogy Words", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 13, 2012, ( accessed [access date]). 

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