HONOLULU (KHON2) — Travel to Hawaii is expected to get busier in the coming months after the state dropped its indoor mask mandate and Safe Travels Hawaii program for domestic Trans-Pacific travelers. Visitors should be mindful that Hawaii is more than just sandy beaches and tour attractions: it’s a place that’s extremely rich in different cultures and languages.
Pidgin in Hawaii, or Hawaii Creole English, is a unique dialect with its own grammar and sound system that you won’t find anywhere else. While Pidgin borrows from various languages, Native Hawaiians, Chinese and Portuguese had the most influence since the early plantation days.
Here’s a list of Hawaii slang and Pidgin phrases you can learn before your next trip.
- A term that applies to any female older than you. You don’t actually have to be related.
- Example: “Tanks fo da food, aunty.”
- “All right.” Typically used when something good happens or goes well.
- Example: “I just got a raise today! Aurite!”
Brah / Braddah
- A casual way to refer to somebody, like “bro” or “brother.”
- Example: “Eh brah, you like go to da beach?”
Broke Da Mouth
- This is something you say when you eat something delicious.
- Example: “Dat poke is so ʻono, it broke da mouth.”
- A way to show that you’re excited or happy for someone or something.
- Example: “They just won da game! Chee-hoo!”
- “Goosebumps” or “chills.”
- Example: “Remember dat touchdown? Chicken skin moment, yeah?”
- “A lot” or “plenty.”
- Example: “So, you catch any fish today?” “Oh yeah. Choke, brah.”
- This is like someone saying they heard it through the grapevine, or through word of mouth.
- Example: “So I heard through da coconut wireless that you moved to Kaneohe…”
- This refers to anything, especially when you can’t remember the name.
- Example: “Remember when she was dating da kine?”
- “That’s the reason.”
- Example: “You play games all da time. Das why you always stay tired.”
- Example: “Ho brah, what’s dat smell? You fut in here?”
- Example: “You can find local kine grindz up in North Shore.”
- Something that’s messy, out of order, needs to fixed.
- Example: “My hair was all hamajang aftah da party.”
- “Childhood days.”
- Example: “We’ve been best friends since hanabata days.”
- “Do it again” or “encore” — often shouted by the audience at the end of a performance.
- Example: “Dat band was amazing! Hana hou!”
- Common greeting that combines “how is it” into one word.
- Example: “Howzit going, aunty?”
- A hassle or something you find annoying.
- Example: “I don’t want to get a new license. It’s so humbug.”
If can, can. If no can, no can.
- “If I can, I can. If I can’t, then I can’t.”
- Example: “Eh brah, you coming to my party tonight? I know you work late, but if can, can.”
- What you call someone or something that is irritating.
- Example: “Can you tell my sis to stop calling me? She so irraz!”
- “Something bad.”
- Example: “I don’t want to order that again. Junk, da kine.”
- Combining the words “like” and “that.”
- Example: “She just be l’dat. No worries.”
- This isn’t asking someone if they actually want food. It’s asking if they want to fight.
- Example: “Eh, sis, you like beef? Kay den.”
- “Not smart.”
- Example: “Dat boy so lolo when he prank called da teacher. Now he in detention.”
- Example: “Go park in da shade. It’s mo’ bettah ova dere.”
- “No more of” or “nothing.”
- Example: “You get any poke left?” “No moa, sorry brah.”
- Hawaiian word for “delicious.”
- Example: “The food at Duke’s is so ʻono.”
- Example: “My sis offered me some pakalōlō, but I said nah.”
- “Done” or “over.”
- Example: “I’m pau ova here. Let’s get some grindz.”
- “Roger” or “got it.”
- Example: “Let’s meet at your mom’s place for dinner.” “Rajah dat.”
- Urine or pee.
- Example: “Go shishi before da show.”
- “Okay, got it.”
- Example: “You like surf this weekend? Shoots den!”
- Slippers, flip-flops or sandals.
- Example: “Are you really going hiking in slippahs?”
- “Just a little bit.”
- Example: “She small kine irraz, but I like her.”
- A dirty look.
- Example: “I gave him stink eye when he cut me off.”
- Example: “Tanks fo da grindz!”
- Catching up, telling stories or gossiping with friends.
- Example: “Why you coming home late?” “Jesse and I talk story all night.”
Besides learning Pidgin, there are common Hawaiian words used by residents, local businesses and even tour companies that will be useful to know before your visit.
Being a tourist also means being mindful of the place you’re visiting and the people who call it home. Rules and common courtesy still apply during your vacation in Hawaii. Check out KHON 2’s list of 10 things you shouldn’t do when visiting the islands.