August 21, 2007

#01-009: Aloha, Big Kahunas! English Vocabulary from Hawaiian

decorative invitation with text as below

Note: What we call "English" is actually the result of blending several languages. Let's learn about some of the words we "borrowed" from Hawaiian.

Get Ready: What do you know about Hawaii, America's 50th state?

Read the announcement from a school newspaper:

This Friday the Seniors are hosting a Luau,
complete with poi and a roasted pig.
Senior girls will wear muumuus,
and present leis to all boys.
The "Big Kahuna" (Principal LaRue)
will choose the best hula dancers,
and Ellie Josephson will play her ukulele.
So wiki wiki! Get your tickets now!

The English language has been enriched by vocabulary from several other languages. The Hawaiian language is one of these. Learn more in the Practice below.


Read more:

Practice: Here are some Hawaiian words. Can you guess their meaning? (Looking at the ad above may help.) There's more information about each word given below.

  1. aloha
  2. hula
  3. kahuna
  4. lei
  5. luau
  6. muumuu
  7. poi
  8. ukulele
  9. wiki wiki

  1. a big dinner, a feast
  2. a kind of dance
  3. a musical instrument
  4. a type of dress
  5. fast
  6. a dish made of taro (a kind of root)
  7. a leader or boss
  8. "hello" and "goodbye"
  9. a circle of flowers

Explanation of the Answers: After you check your answers in the first comment below, read on for more information on these words.

  • aloha: This means both "hello" and "goodbye." It can also describe a welcoming or comfortable feeling. "Hawaii has the 'aloha spirit.'"
  • hula: A traditional dance, in which the dancer tells a story by moving the arms and hands. Hula dancers also rotate their hips. The "Hula Hoop," a popular toy first made in the 1950s, is a large plastic ring placed around the hips; the user moves his or her body "hula style" to make the ring rotate in a circle.
  • kahuna: Originally a Hawaiian tribal leader; the word was brought into common use by surfers. (Surfing as we know it today originated in Hawaii.) Now used informally to describe a powerful or important person, often with the adjective "big": "Bill Gates is the big kahuna at Microsoft."
  • lei: A garland of flowers placed around the head (like a crown) or the neck (like a necklace). Visiting tourists may be greeted with leis upon arrival in Hawaii.
  • luau: A traditional Hawaiian-style feast, usually held outdoors, featuring traditional foods and entertainment.
  • muumuu: A long, loose, comfortable dress. Often sleeveless and rather shapeless; the cloth often has bright, flowery patterns.
  • poi: A Hawaiian dish made from taro, a root that grows similar to a potato. It is baked, pounded, and fermented before serving.
  • ukulele: A small four-stringed musical instrument, like a small guitar.
  • wiki wiki: Although it means "fast," we see it today on the internet, where a wiki is a collaborative website.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 21, 2007

This lesson received 305 visits on my old site between January, 2012, and June, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. h; 2. b; 3. g; 4. i; 5. a; 6. d; 7. f; 8. c; 9. e