Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

The Hawaiian Islands are renowned for their stunning natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and unique local dialects. For visitors and new residents alike, learning some Hawaiian Pidgin English slang can help you better understand local customs and connect with kamaʻāina (native Hawaiians).

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Haole is the most common Hawaiian slang term for a white person or foreigner in general. But there are some other colorful phrases you may hear too.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the origins and nuances of various Hawaiian slang terms for white people. We’ll look at regional differences, examine why these words developed, and help you understand when their use is appropriate or inappropriate.

Haole: The Most Common Hawaiian Term for White Person

When it comes to Hawaiian slang for white person, one term that stands out is “haole”. This term is widely used in Hawaii and has a specific meaning and cultural significance.

Let’s take a closer look at the definition, original meaning, modern usage, and other spellings and forms of this term.

Definition and Original Meaning

The word “haole” is derived from the Hawaiian language and is generally used to refer to a white person or someone of Caucasian descent. However, its original meaning is not necessarily derogatory. In fact, the term originally referred to any foreigner or non-indigenous person, regardless of their ethnicity.

The word “haole” can also be used to describe someone who is unfamiliar with or does not fully understand Hawaiian culture and customs. It is important to note that the meaning and usage of the term may vary depending on the context and the individuals involved.

Modern Usage and Context

In modern usage, the term “haole” is commonly used in Hawaii to refer to white people. However, it is essential to understand that not all Hawaiians use this term negatively or with derogatory intent.

Many Hawaiians use it simply as a descriptor, similar to how someone might use the term “blonde” or “brunette” to describe someone’s hair color.

It is crucial to be aware of the context in which the term is used. In some cases, it may be used playfully or affectionately among friends or family members.

However, it is essential to respect the cultural sensitivity surrounding the term and to use it with caution and understanding.

Other Spellings and Forms

While “haole” is the most common spelling of this term, variations can also be found, such as “hāole” with a macron over the “a”. The macron indicates a longer vowel sound.

Additionally, some people may use alternative spellings like “howlie” or “howley“, which have become more prevalent in certain contexts.

It is worth noting that the spelling and pronunciation of the term may vary depending on different regions and individual preferences. However, the underlying meaning remains the same – a term used to refer to white people in the Hawaiian context.

For further information about Hawaiian culture, language, and the usage of the term “haole”, you can visit the official website of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This authoritative source provides valuable insights into the history and significance of the term within the Hawaiian community.

Regional Hawaiian Slang for White People

When it comes to Hawaiian slang, there are several terms specifically used to refer to white people. These terms are deeply rooted in the culture and history of Hawaii, and understanding them can provide valuable insight into the local way of life.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore some of the most commonly used Hawaiian slang terms for white people.

Popolo: Used on Oahu

On the island of Oahu, the term “popolo” is often used to refer to white people. This term has its origins in the Hawaiian language and is believed to have been adopted from the Portuguese word “papolo”, which means blackberry.

While the exact reason for its association with white people is unclear, it is important to note that the term “popolo” is not necessarily derogatory and is commonly used in everyday conversation.

Hapa Haole: Part Hawaiian, Part White

Another common term used to refer to white people in Hawaii is “hapa haole”. This term is a combination of the Hawaiian word “hapa”, meaning half, and the English word “haole”, which refers to white or foreign people.

“Hapa haole” is used to describe individuals who are of mixed Hawaiian and white heritage. It is important to note that this term is not exclusive to white people and can also be used to describe individuals of other mixed ethnic backgrounds.

Hanahou: Newcomer Foreigners

The term “hanahou” is often used to refer to white people who are newcomers or foreigners to Hawaii. Derived from the Hawaiian words “hana”, meaning work, and “hou”, meaning again or anew, “hanahou” is used to describe individuals who have recently arrived in Hawaii.

While the term itself does not specifically refer to white people, it is often used in this context to distinguish newcomers from the local population.

Understanding the regional Hawaiian slang for white people is an important aspect of immersing oneself in the local culture. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the unique linguistic nuances of Hawaii.

So, the next time you hear someone use the term “popolo”, “hapa haole”, or “hanahou”, you’ll be able to understand the cultural context behind it.

History and Reasons These Terms Developed

Understanding the history and reasons behind the development of Hawaiian slang terms for white people is crucial in order to grasp their significance and cultural context.

The emergence of these terms can be traced back to the effects of colonization on Native Hawaiians, the rise of the plantation economy, and concerns regarding cultural appropriation.

Effects of Colonization on Native Hawaiians

The arrival of European explorers and later the colonization of Hawaii had a profound impact on the Native Hawaiian population. With the influx of foreigners, a new dynamic was introduced to the islands, leading to changes in social structures, language, and cultural norms.

As a result, Hawaiian language and traditions began to intertwine with foreign influences, giving rise to unique expressions and slang terms.

Rise of the Plantation Economy

The rise of the plantation economy in Hawaii during the late 19th and early 20th centuries played a significant role in the development of Hawaiian slang terms. Immigrants from various countries, including the United States, Europe, and Asia, came to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations.

This diverse mix of cultures and languages contributed to the creation of a vibrant linguistic landscape, where different communities interacted and shared their own expressions and idioms.

Cultural Appropriation Concerns

One of the reasons behind the development of Hawaiian slang terms for white people is the concern over cultural appropriation. Native Hawaiians have long voiced their frustrations about the commodification and misrepresentation of their culture by outsiders.

The use of slang terms can be seen as a way to reclaim their identity and assert their cultural sovereignty in the face of ongoing colonization and globalization.

It is important to note that the use of these terms should be approached with sensitivity and respect. Understanding their historical and cultural significance can help foster a more inclusive and informed dialogue about the complexities of race, identity, and power dynamics in Hawaii.

When Is It Appropriate or Inappropriate to Use These Terms?

Understanding when it is appropriate or inappropriate to use Hawaiian slang terms for white people is essential to maintaining respectful and inclusive communication.

Here are some factors to consider:

Among Friends vs. Strangers

The use of slang terms can vary depending on the relationship between individuals. Among close friends who share a comfortable and familiar bond, the use of Hawaiian slang terms may be more acceptable.

However, when engaging with strangers or individuals you are not familiar with, it is best to refrain from using these terms. This helps ensure that you are respectful and avoid any unintentional offense.

Consider Tone and Context

Tone and context play a significant role in determining the appropriateness of using Hawaiian slang terms for white people. It is essential to consider the intention behind using these terms. If used in a derogatory or demeaning manner, they can be highly offensive.

However, in a light-hearted and friendly context, they may be used as a playful way to connect with others. It is crucial to be mindful of the impact your words may have and to use these terms with respect.

Alternative Descriptors like Local or Resident

Instead of using Hawaiian slang terms exclusively, it is worth considering alternative descriptors that convey the same meaning without relying on cultural slang.

Terms like “local” or “resident” can be used to refer to someone who is from Hawaii or has lived there for a significant period. These terms are more neutral and do not carry the potential for misunderstanding or offense.

Ultimately, the appropriateness of using Hawaiian slang terms for white people depends on the specific situation and the individuals involved. It is always a good idea to err on the side of caution and be respectful of other’s feelings and cultural sensitivities.

Other Notable Hawaiian Slang Words and Phrases

Pidgin English Vocabulary and Grammar

One of the most interesting aspects of Hawaiian slang is the presence of Pidgin English, a unique dialect that combines elements of English, Hawaiian, and other languages.

Pidgin English is commonly spoken by locals and has its own vocabulary and grammar rules. Some common Pidgin English words and phrases include:

  • Da kine: This versatile phrase can be used to refer to something when you can’t remember or don’t know the specific word for it. It’s often used in sentences like “Pass me da kine over there” or “You know, da kine”.
  • Brah: Short for “brother”, this term is used as a friendly way to address someone, similar to “dude” or “mate” in other English-speaking cultures.
  • Shoots: This word is used to express agreement or confirmation, similar to “alright” or “okay”. For example, if someone asks if you want to go to the beach, you can respond with “Shoots!”

Learning some Pidgin English can be a fun way to immerse yourself in the local culture and connect with the people of Hawaii.

Surfer Lingo and Beach Slang

Hawaii is renowned for its world-class surf spots, and with that comes a unique surfer lingo and beach slang. Here are some popular words and phrases you might hear in the surfing community:

  • Stoked: This term is used to describe a state of excitement or enthusiasm. If someone says they’re “stoked to go surfing,” it means they’re really looking forward to it.
  • Barney: In the surfing world, a “barney” refers to someone who is inexperienced or clumsy in the water. It’s not a term you want to be associated with if you’re trying to earn respect in the lineup.
  • Shaka: The shaka sign is a hand gesture commonly used in Hawaii to convey aloha spirit and a laid-back attitude. It involves extending the thumb and pinky finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled.

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or just starting out, understanding the surfer lingo can help you feel more at home in the Hawaiian surf culture.

Everyday Terms for Locals

While there are many unique slang words and phrases in Hawaiian culture, there are also everyday terms that locals use in their daily lives. Here are a few examples:

  • Ohana: Meaning “family” in Hawaiian, this term extends beyond blood relatives and encompasses a sense of community and inclusion.
  • Aloha: This is one of the most well-known Hawaiian words, often used as a greeting or farewell. But aloha also represents a deeper meaning, embodying love, compassion, and respect.
  • Pau Hana: This phrase translates to “finished work” and refers to the time after work when people can relax and unwind. It’s similar to the concept of happy hour in other cultures.

These everyday terms are an integral part of Hawaiian life and understanding them can enhance your interactions and appreciation for the local culture.

Read more: A Guide To Hawaiian Slang Insults And Offensive Words


The Hawaiian language reflects a unique cultural identity shaped by waves of immigration and colonization over the centuries. Local slang like haole gives insight into this complex history from the indigenous point of view.

While these terms may seem controversial to some, understanding their origins and nuances can help improve cultural exchange and communication. With an open and respectful attitude, we can all find the aloha spirit at the heart of Hawaiʻi.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts