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The phrase ‘fair winds and following seas’ is a traditional Hawaiian blessing and well wishing for safe travel over the ocean. In Hawaiian, it is ‘makani ‘olu a holo kai malie’. This culturally significant saying dates back centuries and continues to be used today in Hawaii as a farewell greeting or blessing.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Hawaiian phrase ‘makani ‘olu a holo kai malie’, meaning ‘fair winds and following seas’, is a traditional blessing for safe ocean travels that dates back many centuries in Hawaiian culture and is still commonly used today.

The Literal Translation and Meaning

Fair Winds and Following Seas

In Hawaiian culture, the phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” holds great significance. It is a traditional blessing and expression of good wishes for a safe and smooth journey.

Let’s explore the literal translation and meaning behind this beautiful phrase.

Makani ‘olu – ‘Fair or favorable winds’

The word “makani” refers to the winds, and “olu” translates to fair or favorable. When combined, “makani ‘olu” signifies the presence of gentle and favorable winds.

In Hawaiian seafaring traditions, having favorable winds was crucial for safe and efficient travel across the vast Pacific Ocean. These winds would propel the canoes or ships, ensuring a smooth and swift voyage.

Having “makani ‘olu” was not just about convenience; it was a matter of survival. Navigating the ocean without proper winds could lead to getting stranded or facing dangerous weather conditions.

Therefore, the wish for “makani ‘olu” was and still is an essential part of Hawaiian culture, expressing the desire for a safe and successful journey.

Holo kai malie – ‘Calm or smooth sailing seas’

“Holo” means to sail or travel, “kai” refers to the ocean, and “malie” translates to calm or smooth. When combined, “holo kai malie” represents the wish for calm and tranquil seas. In the context of the phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas”, it signifies the desire for a peaceful and uneventful journey across the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean can be unpredictable, with its powerful currents, swells, and potential storms. For Hawaiian seafarers, encountering rough seas could pose significant risks to their safety and the success of their voyage.Therefore, the wish for “holo kai malie” reflects the aspiration for a serene and trouble-free sailing experience.

By combining the wishes for “makani ‘olu” and “holo kai malie”, the phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” encapsulates the desire for a safe, smooth, and successful journey.

It is a heartfelt blessing that acknowledges the importance of favorable winds and calm seas in Hawaiian seafaring traditions.

For more information on Hawaiian culture and traditions, you can visit

Origins and History

Significance of the ocean and navigation in ancient Hawaiian culture

The ocean has always held immense significance in Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians have a deep connection to the sea, as it has provided them with sustenance, transportation, and a source of spiritual inspiration. For the ancient Hawaiians, the ability to navigate the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean was a skill of utmost importance.

Hawaiian society relied heavily on navigation for trade, exploration, and communication between islands. Navigators, known as “wayfinders”, used a variety of techniques to navigate the open ocean, including observing the stars, currents, and marine life.

Their knowledge of the ocean and navigation was passed down through generations, ensuring the survival and prosperity of the Hawaiian people.

The ocean was also seen as a symbol of life and renewal in Hawaiian culture. It was believed to be the source of all life and connected to the spiritual realm. The ocean was not only a physical entity but also a spiritual one, with its own deities and sacred sites.

The ocean was revered and respected, and its power and unpredictability were acknowledged.

Earliest known uses of the blessing

The phrase “fair winds and following seas” has its origins in the maritime traditions of ancient Hawaii. It was a blessing bestowed upon voyagers, wishing them favorable winds and a safe journey.

The exact origin of the phrase is unclear, but it is believed to have been used by Hawaiian navigators as early as the 18th century.

One of the earliest documented uses of the blessing can be found in the journals of Captain James Cook, the British explorer who first encountered the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

Cook wrote about the welcoming nature of the Hawaiians and their use of blessings for safe travels. He noted that the phrase “fair winds and following seas” was often used by Hawaiian navigators before embarking on long voyages.

Since then, the blessing has become ingrained in Hawaiian culture and is often used as a farewell or well-wishing phrase. It is a way to express good wishes and hopes for a smooth journey, whether it be a physical journey across the ocean or a metaphorical journey through life.

Continued Relevance and Modern Usage

The phrase “Fair winds and following seas” has not lost its significance in Hawaiian culture and continues to be commonly heard today. It is a timeless expression that captures the essence of a smooth and prosperous journey.

The phrase is not limited to the maritime context but has also extended its meaning to various aspects of life. It has become a symbol of well-wishing and good fortune, transcending its original usage.

Still commonly heard today

Whether it’s in traditional ceremonies, cultural events, or everyday conversations, the phrase “Fair winds and following seas” remains a popular expression in Hawaiian culture.

It is often used to convey best wishes and blessings for a person’s journey or endeavors. Whether someone is embarking on a new adventure, starting a business, or even going through a challenging time, the phrase serves as a reminder of support and encouragement.

Moreover, the phrase has also found its way into popular culture and is frequently used in movies, books, and music relating to Hawaii. It has become a recognizable symbol of the Hawaiian spirit and a representation of the warm and welcoming nature of the islands.

Used as a farewell or blessing

“Fair winds and following seas” is commonly used as a farewell or blessing in Hawaiian culture. When someone is leaving on a journey, whether it’s a physical departure or embarking on a new chapter in life, this phrase is often spoken to wish them well.

It serves as a reminder that even in the face of challenges, there will be favorable winds and smooth seas to guide and support them.

This expression is not only used within the Hawaiian community but has also been embraced by people around the world. It has become a part of the global lexicon, symbolizing the desire for a safe and prosperous journey.

In a world that is constantly evolving, the phrase “Fair winds and following seas” provides a sense of hope and reassurance that one’s path will be guided by favorable conditions.

For more information about Hawaiian culture and traditions, you can visit

Cultural and Linguistic Significance

Reflects deep ties to the ocean in Hawaiian culture

The phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” holds immense cultural and linguistic significance in Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians have a long-standing connection with the ocean, as it has played a central role in their history, livelihood, and spirituality.

This phrase encapsulates their deep appreciation and respect for the sea, acknowledging its power and importance in their lives.

In Hawaiian culture, the ocean is seen as a source of life and sustenance. It provides food, transportation, and a sense of identity for the Hawaiian people. The phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” symbolizes the desire for favorable conditions during voyages, ensuring safe and smooth sailing.

It reflects the understanding that the ocean can be both a provider and a challenge, and expresses the hope for favorable winds and calm seas to accompany them on their journey.

Furthermore, this phrase has been passed down through generations, serving as a reminder of the ancestral connections to the sea. It represents the wisdom and knowledge of the past, as well as the shared experiences of Hawaiians navigating the vast Pacific Ocean.

By using this phrase, Hawaiians honor their ancestors and acknowledge their deep-rooted ties to the ocean.

Preserves traditional Hawaiian language

In addition to its cultural significance, the phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” also plays a crucial role in preserving the traditional Hawaiian language.

The Hawaiian language, known as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, has experienced a decline in usage over the years. However, phrases like this serve as a reminder of the importance of keeping the language alive.

By using and passing down this phrase, Hawaiians actively contribute to the revitalization of their language. It serves as a bridge between the past and the present, ensuring that future generations will continue to understand and appreciate the richness of the Hawaiian language.

The phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” is just one example of the many linguistic treasures that are an integral part of Hawaiian culture.

In recent years, efforts have been made to promote the learning and use of the Hawaiian language. Schools, community organizations, and online resources have emerged to support the preservation of the language.

Websites like ʻŌlelo Online and Aha Pūnana Leo provide valuable resources for those interested in learning and practicing the Hawaiian language.

By embracing and celebrating phrases like “Fair Winds and Following Seas”, Hawaiians are not only honoring their cultural heritage but also ensuring that the language and traditions are passed on to future generations.

It is a testament to the resilience and pride of the Hawaiian people.

Similar Blessings and Farewells in Other Cultures

The sentiment of wishing someone well on their journey is not unique to Hawaiian culture. In fact, many cultures around the world have their own versions of blessings and farewells that express similar sentiments.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

Bon voyage

In Western cultures, particularly in French-speaking regions, the phrase “bon voyage” is commonly used to wish someone a good journey.

This expression is often used when saying goodbye to someone who is about to embark on a trip or a new adventure. It is a simple yet heartfelt way of expressing well wishes and hoping for a safe and enjoyable journey.

When someone says “bon voyage”, they are essentially saying “have a good trip” or “enjoy your journey”. It is a way of conveying positive energy and wishing the person a smooth and successful voyage.

Just like the Hawaiian phrase “fair winds and following seas”, “bon voyage” acknowledges the uncertainties that may lie ahead but also expresses optimism and positivity.

Smooth sailing

In English-speaking cultures, the phrase “smooth sailing” is often used to convey similar sentiments of good fortune and easy progress.

Although it is not specifically used as a farewell or blessing, it is commonly used to wish someone well in their endeavors or to encourage them to have a trouble-free journey.

When we say “smooth sailing”, we are essentially hoping for a journey or endeavor to be free from obstacles and challenges. It is a way of expressing our desire for things to go smoothly and for the person to have a successful and enjoyable experience.

Just like the Hawaiian phrase “fair winds and following seas,” “smooth sailing” embodies the idea of a favorable and effortless journey.

It is fascinating to see how different cultures have their own unique ways of expressing similar sentiments. Whether it’s saying “bon voyage” or wishing someone “smooth sailing”, these blessings and farewells demonstrate the universal desire for good fortune and success in our journeys.

For more information on cultural expressions and traditions, you can visit, which provides valuable insights into the customs and practices of different cultures around the world.


In Hawaiian culture, the phrase ‘makani ‘olu a holo kai malie’ beautifully encapsulates the traditional blessing and well wishing for smooth, safe ocean travels with favorable winds and calm seas. Its continued use in Hawaii keeps alive both cultural values and the Hawaiian language.

When heard today, this lyrical saying immediately evokes Hawaii’s profound connections to the Pacific Ocean and timeless customs of blessing journeys by canoe over the waves.

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