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Aloha! If you’re wondering what grandma is called in Hawaiian, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the various Hawaiian terms for grandma so you can understand exactly what to call your tutu.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In Hawaiian, the most common words for grandma are tutu and kupuna.

In this roughly 3000 word guide, we’ll cover: The origins and meanings behind tutu, kupuna, and other Hawaiian grandparent terms. How to pronounce these words properly.

Background on Hawaiian culture and family structure. Fun facts about Hawaiian elders and their role in ohana (families). The best ways to address your tutu or kupuna with aloha (love and respect). Mahalo (thanks) for reading and let’s dive in!

The Meaning and Origins of Tutu


If you’ve ever wondered what grandma is called in Hawaiian, the answer is “Tutu”. This endearing term carries a rich cultural meaning and is deeply rooted in Hawaiian tradition.

Let’s explore the origins and significance of this unique Hawaiian word.

Tutu Means Grandparent or Ancestor

In the Hawaiian language, the word “Tutu” is commonly used to refer to grandparents or ancestors.

It is an inclusive term that encompasses both grandmothers and grandfathers. This term reflects the importance and reverence Hawaiians have for their elders and the wisdom they impart.

The concept of extended family and the role of grandparents in Hawaiian culture are deeply cherished. Tutus are seen as the keepers of family history, cultural traditions, and values. They provide guidance and support to younger generations, ensuring the preservation of Hawaiian heritage.

It’s interesting to note that while “Tutu” is commonly used for grandparents, there are also specific terms for grandmother (“Tutu wahine“) and grandfather (“Tutu kane“).

This distinction adds an extra layer of respect and recognition for each individual role within the family structure.

It’s a Term of Endearment and Respect

Beyond its literal meaning, “Tutu” is also a term of endearment and respect. It is often used to show affection and love towards grandparents or older individuals within the community.

The use of “Tutu” reflects the close-knit nature of Hawaiian families and the strong bonds that exist between generations.

When addressing a grandparent or an elder with the term “Tutu”, it signifies a deep level of respect and acknowledgment. It is a way of honoring their wisdom, experience, and contributions to the family and community.

So, the next time you visit Hawaii or have the opportunity to interact with someone from Hawaiian descent, remember to use the term “Tutu” to show your appreciation for their role as a grandparent or elder.

It’s a beautiful word that encapsulates the love, respect, and cultural values that are integral to Hawaiian tradition.

Kupuna as Another Way to Say Grandparent

When it comes to Hawaiian culture, the word “kupuna” is commonly used to refer to grandparents. However, it is much more than just a simple translation.

Kupuna holds a deeper meaning that encompasses the role and significance of elders within Hawaiian society. Let’s explore what kupuna means and how it can be used to refer to any respected elder.

Kupuna Means Elder

In the Hawaiian language, the word “kupuna” translates to “elder” or “ancestor“. It is a term that is used to honor and respect those who have come before us and have accumulated wisdom and life experience.

Kupuna are seen as the foundation of the family and community, providing guidance, knowledge, and support.

Traditionally, kupuna were highly revered and held in high esteem. They were considered the keepers of wisdom and were sought after for their advice and teachings.

Their role extended beyond that of a grandparent and encompassed being a mentor, counselor, and role model for the younger generations.

It Can Refer to Any Respected Elder

While the term “kupuna” is commonly used to refer to grandparents, it can also be applied to any respected elder within the community. This can include aunts, uncles, older siblings, or even non-related individuals who are highly regarded for their wisdom and contributions.

The concept of kupuna extends beyond blood relations and highlights the importance of honoring and learning from those who have lived longer and have valuable insights to share.

It is a way to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of all elders in the community, regardless of their familial ties.

So, the next time you hear someone referring to their kupuna, remember that it goes beyond the simple translation of “grandparent”.

It signifies a deep respect for the wisdom and guidance of elders and their significant role in Hawaiian culture.

Other Hawaiian Words for Grandma

Obaachan from Japanese Culture

In addition to the Hawaiian terms, there are other words used in Hawaiian culture to refer to grandmothers. One such term is “Obaachan“,” which comes from the Japanese language.

The term “Obaachan” is commonly used by those of Japanese descent in Hawaii to refer to their grandmothers. This is a beautiful example of the multicultural nature of Hawaii, where different cultures and languages have come together to form a unique blend.

Nana from English Languages

Another term that is sometimes used in Hawaiian culture to refer to grandmothers is “Nana”.

This word is borrowed from the English language and is often used by those who are more comfortable with English or have English-speaking backgrounds. It’s a simple and easy-to-remember term that many people find convenient to use.

It’s important to note that the Hawaiian language itself has specific terms for grandparents, but these may not be widely used by all individuals in Hawaii.

The use of terms like “Obaachan” and “Nana” demonstrates the diversity and cultural influences present in the Hawaiian Islands.

For more information about the Hawaiian language and culture, you can visit the Office of Hawaiian Affairs website or Hawaiian Encyclopedia.

How to Pronounce Tutu, Kupuna, and Other Terms

When it comes to addressing our grandparents, different cultures have different terms of endearment. In the Hawaiian culture, grandparents are referred to as “tutu” or “kupuna”.

But how exactly do you pronounce these terms?

Easy Phonetics for Tutu and Kupuna

Pronouncing Hawaiian words can be a bit challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the language. However, with a little practice, you’ll be able to master the pronunciation of “tutu” and “kupuna”.

Let’s start with “tutu”. It is pronounced as “too-too“. The “u” in “tutu” is a long vowel sound, similar to the “oo” sound in “moon”. So, think of it as saying “too” twice – “too-too”.

Now let’s move on to “kupuna”. It is pronounced as “koo-poo-nah”. The “u” in “kupuna” is a short vowel sound, like the “u” sound in “put”. So, it’s “koo-poo-nah”.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t be afraid to repeat these words out loud until you feel confident in your pronunciation.

Ask Your Tutu How They Prefer You Address Them

While “tutu” and “kupuna” are commonly used terms for grandparents in Hawaii, it’s important to note that each individual may have their own preference for how they are addressed.

Some may prefer the traditional terms, while others may prefer to be called by their first names or other terms of endearment.

When it comes to addressing your grandparents, it’s always best to ask them directly how they would like to be called. It shows respect and consideration for their personal preferences.

So, go ahead and have a conversation with your tutu or kupuna about how they would like to be addressed.

For more information about Hawaiian culture and language, you can visit the official website of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). They provide a wealth of resources on Hawaiian language, history, and culture.

The Important Role of Elders in Hawaiian Culture


Hawaiian culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of elders, known as kupuna, in the community.

Kupuna are highly respected for their wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and they play a vital role in passing down traditions and values to younger generations.

Kupuna Pass Down Traditions and Values

Kupuna serve as the custodians of Hawaiian culture, ensuring that traditions and values are preserved and passed on to future generations.

They are the keepers of ancestral knowledge, and their wisdom is highly valued within the community. Through storytelling, oral history, and mentoring, kupuna impart valuable lessons about the land, the ocean, and the spiritual practices that are deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture.

One of the ways in which kupuna pass down traditions is through the practice of ho’oponopono. This traditional Hawaiian method of conflict resolution and reconciliation emphasizes forgiveness, understanding, and healing.

Kupuna guide and teach their descendants in the art of ho’oponopono, ensuring that this important practice continues to be upheld.

Furthermore, kupuna play a crucial role in teaching younger generations about the importance of caring for and respecting the environment.

They pass down knowledge about sustainable fishing practices, the significance of certain plants and animals, and the sacredness of certain areas. This ensures that the connection between the Hawaiian people and their ancestral lands remains strong.

Tutu Offer Unconditional Love and Support

In Hawaiian culture, grandparents are often referred to as “Tutu”, which is a term of endearment.

Tutu provide a nurturing and loving presence in the lives of their grandchildren, offering unconditional love and support. They are often the ones who pass on valuable life lessons, provide guidance, and serve as role models.

Tutu also play an important role in childcare, especially in multigenerational households. They provide a sense of stability and continuity, ensuring that the younger generation is well-cared for and connected to their cultural heritage.

This intergenerational bond creates a strong sense of family and community in Hawaiian society.

It is important to note that the role of kupuna extends beyond the immediate family. They are respected community leaders and decision-makers, often sought after for their wisdom and guidance.

Their presence in community gatherings and events is highly valued, as they provide a sense of continuity and wisdom to the younger generation.

Read more: How Do You Say Family In Hawaiian?


In Hawaiian culture, elders are deeply respected for their wisdom and position in the family. Understanding terms like tutu and kupuna can help you address your grandma or grandpa in a loving, culturally appropriate way.

Remember there’s no single right way to say grandma or grandpa in Hawaiian. The most important thing is that the term you use conveys affection and appreciation for the special kupuna in your ohana.

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