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Aloha! If you’re wondering what grandpa is called in Hawaiian, you’ve come to the right place. The Hawaiian language has some beautiful and meaningful terms for family members, including grandpa.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The most common Hawaiian word for grandpa is kupuna.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deeper into the Hawaiian terms for grandpa. We’ll look at the traditional word kupuna, as well as other respectful ways to address an elder like tutu and papa. We’ll explore the cultural significance of these terms and how to use them appropriately. Let’s get started on learning how to say grandpa in Hawaiian!

The Meaning of Kupuna

Definition and Pronunciation

In Hawaiian culture, the word “kupuna” is used to refer to a grandparent, elder, or ancestor. The term carries deep significance and respect for the wisdom and knowledge that comes with age and experience. It is pronounced as “koo-poo-nah,” with the stress on the second syllable.

Significance as an Elder and Ancestor

The role of kupuna is highly revered in Hawaiian society. They are seen as the foundation and backbone of the family, providing guidance, support, and wisdom to younger generations. Kupuna are respected for their life experiences and the lessons they have learned throughout their lives.

As elders and ancestors, kupuna hold a special place in Hawaiian culture. They are valued for their knowledge of traditions, customs, and the Hawaiian language. They are often sought after for advice, storytelling, and passing down cultural practices to ensure their preservation for future generations.

Kupuna are seen as the bearers of the cultural torch, passing on the values and traditions that have shaped Hawaiian society for centuries. They play a crucial role in maintaining the cultural identity of the Hawaiian people.

It is important to note that the term “kupuna” is not limited to biological grandparents. It is a term of respect for any elder who embodies wisdom, knowledge, and guidance.

To learn more about Hawaiian culture and the significance of kupuna, you can visit the official website of the Polynesian Cultural Center at

Other Hawaiian Words for Grandfather

When it comes to addressing a grandfather in Hawaiian, there are a few different words you can use, each with its own unique meaning and level of formality. Let’s explore two common Hawaiian words for grandfather:

Tutu – Grandparent or Respected Elder

In Hawaiian, the word “tutu” is often used to refer to a grandparent or respected elder. While it can be used to address a grandmother as well, it is commonly used to refer to a grandfather. This word carries a sense of reverence and respect, highlighting the importance of the role that grandparents play in Hawaiian culture. According to the Hawaiian Dictionary, tutu can also refer to any elderly person, not just a grandparent.

It is important to note that “tutu” is a term that is often used for both grandfathers and grandmothers in Hawaiian culture. So if you are looking for a word specifically for grandfather, there is another term you can use.

Papa – Informal Way to Say Grandpa

If you are looking for a more informal way to say “grandpa” in Hawaiian, you can use the word “papa.” This term is less formal than “tutu” and is often used in a familiar or affectionate manner. It is a great option to use when talking to or about your own grandfather in a casual setting.

While “papa” is commonly used to refer to a grandfather, it can also be used to mean “father” or “dad” in certain contexts. It is important to consider the context when using this term to ensure clarity in communication.

Both “tutu” and “papa” are words that are used to address or refer to grandfathers in Hawaiian culture. The choice of which word to use depends on the level of formality and the relationship between the speaker and the grandfather. Regardless of the word chosen, it is important to remember the significance and respect associated with the role of a grandfather in Hawaiian culture.

When and How to Use These Terms

Being Respectful of Elders in Hawaiian Culture

In Hawaiian culture, showing respect to elders is of utmost importance. The term “Grandpa” in Hawaiian is “Kūpuna” which is a term that encompasses not only grandfathers but also older individuals who hold a significant role in the family or community. It is essential to use this term when addressing or referring to an elder in a formal or respectful context. By using “Kūpuna,” you acknowledge their wisdom, experience, and contributions to the community. It is a way to honor and show appreciation for their role in Hawaiian society.

When interacting with a grandparent or elder, it’s crucial to use respectful language and show proper etiquette. Addressing them as “Kūpuna” or “Grandpa” is a way to establish a respectful and meaningful connection. This shows that you value their presence and are acknowledging their importance in your life. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in fostering positive relationships and maintaining the cultural fabric of Hawaiian society.

When to Use Formal vs. Informal Language

In Hawaiian culture, there is a distinction between formal and informal language. The choice of words depends on the context and the level of familiarity with the person you are addressing. When talking to someone you are close to, like a close friend or family member, you can use a more informal term like “Tūtū” to refer to a grandparent. This term is commonly used among family members and denotes a sense of familiarity and affection.

On the other hand, when addressing someone you are not familiar with or someone who holds a position of authority, it is important to use formal language. In these situations, using the term “Kūpuna” is the appropriate and respectful choice. It shows your understanding of Hawaiian customs and your willingness to honor the individual’s status and experience.

It’s important to note that while “Kūpuna” is a term used to refer to grandfathers, there is a separate term, “Kūkū,” that is used to address grandmothers. Using the appropriate term shows not only respect for the elders but also an understanding of the nuances of Hawaiian culture.

For more information on Hawaiian language and customs, you can visit This website provides a comprehensive guide to Hawaiian language, culture, and history, and can be a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning more about the rich traditions of the Hawaiian people.

The Importance of ‘Ohana in Hawaiian Culture

In Hawaiian culture, the concept of ‘ohana holds significant importance. ‘Ohana, which means family in Hawaiian, goes beyond just immediate family members and includes extended family, friends, and even community members. The concept of ‘ohana emphasizes the strong bonds and interconnectedness between individuals, promoting a sense of unity and support within the community.

Focus on Extended Family and Community

In Hawaiian culture, the extended family plays a vital role in people’s lives. It is common for multiple generations to live together or in close proximity, fostering a sense of togetherness and support. The ‘ohana extends beyond blood relations and includes close friends and community members who are considered as family. This focus on the extended family and community creates a strong support system where individuals can rely on each other for emotional, physical, and spiritual support.

The emphasis on ‘ohana also extends to community involvement. Hawaiians place a great value on contributing to the well-being of the community as a whole. This sense of collective responsibility is deeply ingrained in the culture, with individuals actively participating in community events, festivals, and gatherings.

Passing Down Traditions Between Generations

An essential aspect of ‘ohana is the passing down of traditions, cultural practices, and knowledge from one generation to another. Elders are highly respected and revered in Hawaiian culture for their wisdom and life experiences. They play a crucial role in preserving and transmitting cultural heritage to younger family members.

Through storytelling, dance, music, and other forms of artistic expression, the older generation imparts important values, beliefs, and traditions to their descendants. This intergenerational exchange helps to maintain and strengthen the cultural identity of the Hawaiian people.

The passing down of traditions between generations also serves as a way to keep the Hawaiian language alive. The Hawaiian language was once on the brink of extinction but has experienced a revival in recent years. ‘Ohana plays a significant role in this revival, as families actively encourage the use of the Hawaiian language within their households, ensuring its preservation for future generations.

The concept of ‘ohana in Hawaiian culture is a testament to the deep-rooted values of unity, support, and cultural preservation. It highlights the importance of extended family and community in an individual’s life and emphasizes the intergenerational passing down of traditions and knowledge. Embracing the spirit of ‘ohana can bring people closer together, foster a sense of belonging, and enrich their lives with the richness of Hawaiian culture.

Other Useful Hawaiian Vocabulary for Family

Mother and Father – Makua

In Hawaiian, the word for mother is “makuahine” and the word for father is “makua kane.” These terms can be used to refer to your own parents or to address someone else’s parents respectfully. It’s important to note that “makuahine” and “makua kane” can also be used in a more general sense to mean “parent” or “parents” when talking about parents in a broader context.

Grandmother and Grandfather – Kupuna

When it comes to grandparents, the Hawaiian language has a beautiful term that encompasses both grandmothers and grandfathers. The word is “kupuna.” This term is often used to show respect and honor towards elders in the family. It’s worth mentioning that “kupuna” can also be used to refer to any older relative, not just grandparents. So, if you’re talking to an older aunt or uncle, you can use the term “kupuna” to address them.

Great Grandparent – Kupuna Nui

If you want to specifically refer to your great grandparents in Hawaiian, you can use the term “kupuna nui.” This term adds the word “nui,” which means “great” or “big,” to the word “kupuna.” So, “kupuna nui” translates to “great grandparent” in English. It’s amazing how the Hawaiian language provides specific terms to honor different generations of family members.

Learning these Hawaiian vocabulary words for family can help you connect with the culture and tradition of the Hawaiian people. It’s a great way to show respect and appreciation for your family members and deepen your understanding of the rich Hawaiian language.

If you want to learn more about the Hawaiian language and culture, you can visit for a wealth of information and resources.


In Hawaiian culture, elders like grandparents play an important role in the ‘ohana (family unit). They teach traditions, pass down ancestral knowledge, and care for the younger generations.

By learning how to respectfully address your kupuna or tutu in Hawaiian, you are honoring their standing and embracing the aloha spirit. We hope this overview gave you some useful Hawaiian vocabulary and cultural insight around the important role grandpas (and grandmas) hold in native Hawaiian families. Aloha!

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