You’ve probably heard the word “Aloha” before, but have you ever wondered how to say thank you in Hawaiian Language?
The Hawaiian language is beautiful, with each word having multiple rich meanings. The Hawaiian word for thank you encompasses so much more than just a polite expression. It’s a way of life and an integral part of the Hawaiian culture!
Hawaiians have a holistic view of the world and gratitude is a big part of that view. That might be part of the reason the rest of us are so drawn to their beautiful culture.
If you’re planning a trip to this tropical paradise, read on to learn more about the rich culture present on the islands.
Plus, by the end of this post, you’ll be able to confidently say “mahalo” when someone does something nice!
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How to say thank you in Hawaii
The word in Hawaiian for thank you is Mahalo. Mahalo means a lot more than just a polite expression of gratitude!
Mahalo can also be used to express admiration- and can be used in conjunction with other words to add clarity to what you mean.
The Hawaiian culture is nuanced and rich.
While I’ve been living in Maui for over 4 years, there is still much I do not know.
I’m constantly learning something new, and although this post is pretty comprehensive, I also recommend you mingle with locals and learn directly from them while you’re on the islands.
No one can teach you better about Hawaii than a native Hawaiian!
The Hawaiian Language: things you should know
The Hawaiian language, originally developed from a South Pacific Polynesian language, is the native tongue of Hawaii. Hawaii is the only state in the USA to have two official languages; English and Hawaiian.
Even though the language of Hawaii is an incredibly important aspect of Hawaiian culture, UNESCO has classified it as critically endangered. Why so? Read on to find out more.
When the United States annexed Hawaii and overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii, they enforced an English-only learning system. Tragically, generations of Hawaiians didn’t grow up speaking their language. By 1985, only 32 island children under the age of 18 spoke Hawaiian!
Thankfully that is no longer the case, as many different initiatives are fighting to revitalize the Hawaiian language. These initiatives include Hawaiian immersion schools and the establishment of Hawaiian as an official language. A lot of progress has been made!
The Hawaiian language is an essential aspect of the Hawaiian culture. Preserving the peoples’ native tongue is valuable and incredibly important work.
Hawaiian Alphabet: The Hawaiian alphabet was developed in 1822. It is in Latin script (the same as English) but it only uses 13 letters- 8 consonants and 5 vowels. There are two special symbols as well- the ‘Okina (indicated by an apostrophe) and the Kahakō.
The ‘Okina is a glottal stop, and the Kahakō is a stress mark that elongates vowels. Both the ‘Okina and Kahakō change not only the pronunciation of a word but also the meaning, so it’s important to pay attention to them!
Hawaiian Pidgin is a full-fledged creole language that combines English, Hawaiian, and aspects of island life and culture. Officially recognized as a language, you’ll hear pidgin while in Hawaii.
You’ll probably see or hear “broke da mouth” and “grindz” during your trip to Hawaii! Both of these popular pidgin phrases have to do with food.
The word “grinds” means food in pidgin, and “broke da mouth” means you just ate something incredibly delicious.
Tip– make sure to try shave ice while you’re in Hawaii! Don’t be fooled- it’s not the same as a snow cone and can even come with ice cream in the center and additional toppings like mochi!
Different Ways To Say Thank You In Hawaiian
How do you say thank you in Hawaii? Mahalo is the base Hawaiian thank you, but you can add other words to give more clarity to what you mean.
You can say mahalo to express your gratitude after a good meal, a gift, or being served. You can even use it when thanking someone after they performed a service for you.
Read on for a list of different ways that you can thank others in Hawaiian!
Thank You (for food)
To say thank you for the food you can say “Mahalo no ka ai.” “Ka Ai” means “the food” and “no” is “for.”
Traditional Hawaiian food originates from the Pacific Polynesian islands. You should try laulau while on the islands.
Laulau is pork wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in an imu (a pit oven) It’s juicy and full of flavor!
I’m also a big fan of spam musubi, which is made with rice, nori, and a slice of spam. I didn’t expect to like it when I first moved to Maui but it’s one of my favorite post-beach snacks!
Thank You (helping you)
You say Mahalo ho’opa’a to say “thank you for your assistance” or you can say Mahalo ho’okomo to thank someone “very much for their assistance.”
For example, you could use this phrase if someone helps you carry your luggage to your car or gives you directions!
Thank You (helping in general)
If someone is helping you more generally without expecting any thanks you can always use the phrase “mahalo nae” which means “thanks though.”
Thank You (to you)
Mahalo iā ʻoe is a way for you to thank someone directly, with it meaning “thank you to you.” Want to thank someone specific in a crowd?
This is the phrase for you! You can also say Mahalo iā and then put their name. For example, you could say “mahalo iā Val for explaining this so well!”
How To Pronounce Thank You In Hawaiian
How do you pronounce Mahalo? It’s easy! It sounds like mah- ha- low. A common mistake I hear is when tourists pronounce it like Ma-hola.
While the letters are similar, don’t get confused! Hola is a Spanish word. If you need to, practice a bit at home before using it out and about.
What is the Hawaiian for “thank you very much”?
What’s the Hawaiian word for thank you very much, you ask? Well, you can say Mahalo nui. Mahalo in Hawaiian means thank you, and Nui means “big or great.”
If you’re feeling extra appreciative you can say Mahalo Nui loa, which means “Thank you so very much.” Loa means “long.”
While the literal translations might not make sense, the meaning of “a lot” is still clear.
The Meaning Of Mahalo In Hawaiian Culture
Mahalo is the Hawaiian word for thank you. Even though the word is commonly used in daily scenarios, it has a rich meaning beyond that. Mahalo means “to live in thankfulness for the abundant blessings of life.”
Hawaiians believe that words have the power to do both good and to cause harm. It’s important to understand the depth of each word’s meaning before using it.
Ma means within, ha refers to the breath of life, and alo means in the presence of. When you’re thanking someone you’re recognizing the divine breath in oneself and the individual. It’s gratitude without an expectation of reciprocity.
This quality of gratitude is part of what distinguishes the Hawaiian people from the rest of the world. It is a huge part of what makes them so special!
The meaning of mahalo nui loa
The meaning of Mahalo nui loa is pretty straightforward- it’s the Hawaiian way to say thank you very much. This is the ultimate expression of thanks.
What does Aloha Nui Mean?
The meaning of Aloha in Hawaii includes love, peace, and compassion. Much more than just saying “hello,” aloha is a way of life. Nui means much or great, so when you say aloha nui you are saying “much aloha.”
In Hawaii, aloha is an energetic presence of love that is all-encompassing. I’ll tell you more about that later.
How Do You Reply To Mahalo Nui Loa?
The most common response to mahalo nui loa is “you’re welcome” or even “aloha.” However, you can also say ‘A’ ole pilikia, which means you’re welcome or no problem.
Even a simple smile is a culturally appropriate response, so don’t feel shy!
How To Say You’re Welcome In Hawaiian
Now that you know Hawaiian for thank you very much, you’re probably wondering how to say you’re welcome! While it’s not entirely customary to respond to being thanked, there are a few options for you to use.
To say you’re welcome you can use the phrase No’u ka Hau’oli, which means the pleasure is mine, or ‘A ‘ole pilikia which means no problem. You could even say hiki nō which just means “can do.”
These phrases are all the result of western influence. It’s okay to just smile or say aloha in response.
How do you say Please In Hawaiian?
Olu`olu is the Hawaiian word you would use to say please. Meaning agreeable, nice, gracious, and pleasant, this word has lots of positive meanings. It’s a beautiful word to use!
How do you say Hello In Hawaiian
Saying “hello” in Hawaiian is as easy as saying Aloha! Even though aloha is used as a greeting, you should know that it’s also a way of life.
Aloha relates to love and fellowship. Directly translated, the word aloha means presence and breath, or the breath of life. To live with aloha means to treat others with love and respect.
When you say aloha to someone, remember the rich meaning of what you’re saying.
Deep care and respect towards others and the world around us are defining features of Hawaiian culture. You’re sure to experience this genuine love and care when on the islands!
Aloha is also how you say goodbye or farewell. Conveying feelings of affection and care, it’s a kind thing to speak over someone when they’re leaving your presence.
Other Cool Hawaiian words that you should learn
There are so many awesome words in the Hawaiian language. I had a hard time choosing just a few to share! The following are words that you’ll see a lot when you’re in Hawaii, so they’ll be helpful words for you to know.
Ono (ō’-no) means to relish, to be, or become sweet. You’ll see this one a lot in terms of food. Ono food is delicious! It is also the name for a common type of fish- the pacific kingfish- so you’ll see it on menus too.
Wahine (vah-hee-neh) is Hawaiian for woman, and Kāne is Hawaiian for warrior. You’ll see these words on bathroom doors. If you get confused, don’t worry- there are normally men/women symbols as well.
Kokua means to extend help sacrificially, to have consideration for others, and to pitch in and help. You might see this on signs saying “mahalo for your kokua” or “please kokua.” This respect could be as simple as not littering, or helping others find a lost item.
How to Say “Thank You” in Hawaiian Language: Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay to say mahalo?
It’s okay to say mahalo while in Hawaii! Just make sure not to overuse it.
Since mahalo is an important word in the Hawaiian culture, make sure you’re respecting all that it means.
It’s important to be curious and open-minded about Hawaiian culture across the board. Hawaiian culture is so rich and there’s so much to learn.
When in doubt, it’s always best to ask a native Hawaiian to make sure you’re using their language correctly!
What do Aloha and Mahalo mean?
The basic meanings of aloha and mahalo are hello/goodbye and thank you.
Encompassing the deep values of Hawaiian culture, both words have deep meanings.
Aloha is love and compassion for others and Mahalo is holistic gratitude.
How do you respond to Mahalo?
There are lots of ways to respond to mahalo! The most culturally appropriate? Smile or just say aloha. If you want to respond more fully, use the phrase ʻAʻole pilikia to mean “no problem.”
Why do Hawaiians say brah?
“Brah” is a greeting commonly used in Hawaii. Essentially, brah is the Hawaiian version of bro, short for braddah.
It’s a pidgin endearment and you’ll see (and hear it) a lot while in Hawaii. The female equivalent is sistah.
What is a popular Hawaiian saying?
You’ll hear lots of different sayings while you’re in Hawaii!
✔️ Aloha: Hello/goodbye
✔️ Mahalo: Thank you
✔️ E Komo Mai: welcome or come on in
✔️ Malama Pono: Take care, be right
✔️ Ono Grindz: Delicious food
✔️ Lanai: balcony or patio.
You’ll hear lots of other phrases while you’re in Hawaii, but these will be a good start. The Hawaiian language is beautiful.
How to Say Thank You in Hawaiian Language: final thoughts
I hope you learn even more about Hawaiian culture as you explore these tropical paradises! Not only do you now know how to say thank you in Hawaiian, but you can take their compassionate viewpoint home with you!
About the Author: Val McArthur
Val McArthur is a communications specialist living on the island of Maui, Hawaii since 2018. She grew up in Guatemala where she developed a taste for high-quality coffee, the outdoors, and multicultural experiences. She’s always on the lookout for new countries to go to and coffee to drink!