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If you’ve spent time in Hawai’i or around Hawaiians, you may have noticed them referring to their aunts as either “aunty” or “auntie”. This can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the Hawaiian culture and language.

So what’s the difference between aunty and auntie in Hawai’i? Let’s take a deep dive into the history and meaning behind these two terms.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hawaiians use both “aunty” and “auntie”, but “aunty” is considered the more traditional Hawaiian term. “Auntie” entered the local Hawaiian lexicon via pidgin English.

The Origins and Meanings of Aunty and Auntie

Aunty’s Traditional Hawaiian Roots


In Hawaiian culture, family and community play a significant role, and the relationships between family members are highly valued.

The term “Aunty” holds a special place in Hawaiian society, referring to not only a biological aunt but also to women who are respected and considered as maternal figures within the community.

Aunty is a term of endearment and respect, used to show appreciation and reverence towards these influential women.

The usage of “Aunty” in Hawaii goes beyond the typical family structure and extends to close friends and even individuals who are older and deserving of respect. It reflects the strong sense of kinship and interconnectedness that is deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.

When Hawaiians refer to someone as “Aunty“, it signifies a close and cherished bond, emphasizing the importance of community and extended family ties.

Auntie Comes from Pidgin English

On the other hand, “Auntie” is derived from Pidgin English, a unique form of communication that emerged among Hawaii’s diverse population during the plantation era.

Pidgin English is a blend of languages, including English, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino, and became a way for people from different cultural backgrounds to understand each other.

In Pidgin English, “Auntie” is used as a term of respect for women who are older or hold a position of authority in the community. It is a term that carries warmth and familiarity, representing the close-knit nature of Hawaiian society.

Whether it’s a teacher, a mentor, or a family friend, “Auntie” is a term that acknowledges the wisdom, guidance, and nurturing qualities that these women provide.

When to Use Aunty vs. Auntie

When it comes to addressing family members, language and culture play an important role. In Hawaii, the terms “aunty” and “auntie” are often used to refer to female relatives.

However, there are certain situations where one term may be more appropriate than the other. Let’s explore when to use “aunty” and when to use “auntie” in Hawaiian culture.

Aunty for Older Family Members

The term “aunty” is commonly used in Hawaii to address older female family members, such as aunts or older cousins. It is a sign of respect and is often used to show reverence for their wisdom and guidance.

For example, if you have an older aunt who is highly regarded in your family, it would be appropriate to address her as “Aunty Jane”. This term of respect acknowledges her seniority and the role she plays in the family dynamic.

Auntie as Term of Endearment

“Auntie” is often used as a term of endearment in Hawaiian culture. It is used to show affection and closeness to a female family member, regardless of age. This term is commonly used for aunts, but it can also be used for older sisters or even close family friends.

For example, if you have a younger aunt who you have a close bond with, you might address her as “Auntie Sarah” to convey your affection and connection.

It’s important to note that the use of “aunty” and “auntie” can vary between families and individuals. Some people may prefer one term over the other, or may use them interchangeably. The key is to use the term that feels most appropriate and respectful in your specific family and cultural context.

For more information on Hawaiian culture and traditions, you can visit, a website that offers insights into the rich cultural heritage of the Hawaiian Islands.

Aunty vs. Auntie in Popular Hawaiian Culture

When it comes to addressing female relatives in Hawaii, you might notice that the terms “aunty” and “auntie” are commonly used. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences in their usage and popularity within Hawaiian culture.

Prevalence in Books, Movies and TV

The term “aunty” is more commonly used in books, movies, and TV shows that depict Hawaiian culture. It has become a widely recognized term that represents the respect and affection shown towards older female figures in the community.

In these forms of media, you’ll often hear characters referring to their elders as “aunty” as a sign of respect and honor. The use of “aunty” in popular culture has helped to solidify its place in the hearts of Hawaiians and visitors alike.

Common Local References

While both “aunty” and “auntie” are used in everyday conversations, “auntie” is the more commonly used term among locals in Hawaii. It is a term of endearment that is used to show respect and familiarity towards older female relatives or female figures in the community.

You might hear someone in Hawaii say, “Auntie, can you help me with this?” or “Auntie, thank you for your guidance”. The use of “auntie” reflects the close-knit community and the importance of family bonds in Hawaiian culture.

It’s important to note that the usage of “aunty” and “auntie” may vary depending on the specific Hawaiian dialect and individual preferences. Some may prefer one term over the other, while others may use them interchangeably.

Ultimately, the choice of using “aunty” or “auntie” is a personal one and is based on the individual’s relationship with the person they are addressing.

For more information on Hawaiian culture and language, you can visit the official website of the Hawaiian Language Commission at

Other Ways Hawaiians Refer to Aunts

Tutu – Grandmother/Grandaunt

In Hawaii, the word “tutu” is commonly used to refer to both grandmothers and grandaunts. This term of endearment is a reflection of the strong emphasis Hawaiians place on family and respect for elders.

It is not uncommon for children to have multiple “tutus” in their lives, as extended family plays a significant role in Hawaiian culture. Whether it’s a biological grandmother or a beloved great-aunt, the title of “tutu” is a way of honoring the wisdom and guidance that these matriarchs provide.

Using Given Names

While “aunty” or “auntie” is a common term used to address aunts in Hawaii, it is not the only way Hawaiians refer to their aunts. In many cases, Hawaiians will use the given names of their aunts when addressing them directly.

This practice serves to emphasize the close familial bonds that exist within Hawaiian culture. By using a given name, it not only acknowledges the familial relationship but also highlights the individuality and unique presence of each aunt within the family dynamic.

Did you know? In traditional Hawaiian culture, the use of personal names was reserved for close family members and intimate friends. This custom reflected the deep sense of connection and importance placed on the family unit.

It’s important to note that the way Hawaiians refer to their aunts can vary depending on the specific family and regional customs. While “aunty” or “auntie” and the use of given names are the most common ways to address aunts, there may be other terms used within certain families or communities.

Cultural traditions are fluid and can evolve over time, so it’s always interesting to explore the unique ways in which different cultures express familial relationships.

For more information on Hawaiian culture and traditions, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Also read: How Do You Say Family In Hawaiian?


In summary, Hawaiians use both “aunty” and “auntie” when referring to their aunts, but “aunty” has a more traditional and familial connotation. “Auntie” originates from pidgin English and can be used as a general term of endearment.

While the two are often interchangeable, there are some guidelines locals follow for when to use one over the other. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong calling any respected Hawaiian female elder “Aunty”. Through understanding the origins and uses of these two terms, you can gain insight into the Hawaiian culture and language.

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