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.

Aloha and welcome! If you’ve ever wanted to wish someone a happy birthday in Hawaiian, you’ve come to the right place. In the Hawaiian language, there are a few different ways to say happy birthday that capture the spirit and beauty of Hawaiian culture.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Hauʻoli lā hānau (pronounced how-oh-lee la ha-now) is the most common Hawaiian phrase for “happy birthday”.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to say happy birthday in Hawaiian. We’ll go over the basics of the Hawaiian language, the history behind Hawaiian birthday traditions, the different ways to wish someone a happy birthday, how to pronounce these phrases correctly, and much more.

By the end, you’ll be an expert in saying happy birthday in Hawaiian!

The Basics of the Hawaiian Language

A Brief History of the Hawaiian Language

The Hawaiian language, also known as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, is an indigenous language of the Polynesians. It is believed to have originated from the Marquesas Islands and was brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers around 1,500 years ago.

For centuries, Hawaiian was the primary language spoken by the native Hawaiians and served as the official language of the Kingdom of Hawaii. However, with the arrival of Western explorers and missionaries in the 18th and 19th centuries, the language faced a decline as English became more prevalent.

Despite the challenges faced throughout history, efforts have been made to revitalize the Hawaiian language. Today, Hawaiian is recognized as one of the official languages of the state of Hawaii, and there are ongoing initiatives to preserve and promote its use.

The Hawaiian Alphabet and Pronunciation

The Hawaiian alphabet, or piʻāpā Hawaiʻi, consists of only 13 letters: five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and eight consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w, and ʻokina).

The ʻokina is a glottal stop, indicated by a backward apostrophe, and is an important aspect of the Hawaiian language as it can change the meaning or pronunciation of a word.

Pronunciation in Hawaiian can be quite different from English. For example, the letter “w” is pronounced as a “v” sound, and the letter “a” is pronounced as “ah”.

Additionally, words are pronounced with equal emphasis on each syllable, and there are no diphthongs or silent letters.

Common Greetings and Expressions

When it comes to greetings and expressions, Hawaiian culture values warmth, respect, and aloha spirit. Here are some common greetings and expressions in Hawaiian:

  • Aloha – This is perhaps the most well-known Hawaiian word, often used as a greeting or farewell. It also carries a deeper meaning of love, compassion, and harmony.
  • Maikaʻi – This word means “good” or “well.” It can be used to express well wishes or to describe something as good or nice.
  • Mahalo – This word is commonly used to express gratitude or to say “thank you”.
  • Hauʻoli lā hānau – This phrase means “happy birthday”. It is often used to wish someone a joyous day on their special day.
  • Pelekikena – This word refers to the president or chairman of an organization. It is commonly used in formal settings.

Learning and using these greetings and expressions can help you connect with the Hawaiian culture and show your appreciation for their language and traditions.

Read also: How To Say Hi In Hawaiian: Aloha, A Hui Hou, And More Hawaiian Greetings

The History and Significance of Birthdays in Hawaiian Culture

Happy birthday

In Hawaiian culture, birthdays hold a special place and are celebrated with great joy and reverence. The concept of celebrating birthdays is relatively recent in Hawaiian history, as it was introduced with the arrival of Western influence.

However, even before the arrival of Europeans, Hawaiians had their own unique ways of marking significant life events.

Traditional Hawaiian Birth Practices

In traditional Hawaiian culture, the birth of a child was a momentous occasion. Expectant mothers would be cared for by experienced women in the community, who would provide support and guidance throughout the pregnancy and birth process.

Once the baby was born, a special ceremony called “hoʻolauleʻa” would be held to celebrate the new life. This ceremony involved prayers, chants, and offerings to the gods to express gratitude and seek blessings for the child’s future.

Additionally, Hawaiians believed in the concept of “hana waʻa”, which translates to “canoe work”. This referred to the idea that each person has a unique purpose or mission in life, similar to a canoe having its own specific destination.

The birth of a child was seen as the beginning of their journey towards fulfilling their purpose, and it was celebrated as such.

Modern Hawaiian Birthday Celebrations

In modern times, Hawaiian birthday celebrations have adopted many Western traditions while still incorporating elements of their own cultural practices. Today, Hawaiians celebrate birthdays with parties, gatherings, and feasts, just like in many other parts of the world.

One notable tradition is the use of the “lei”, which is a garland made of flowers or other natural materials. Lei-giving is an important part of Hawaiian culture and is often done to mark special occasions, including birthdays. The act of receiving a lei is a symbol of love, honor, and respect.

Another tradition is the sharing of “poi“, a traditional Hawaiian dish made from taro root. Poi is a staple food in Hawaiian cuisine and is often served at birthday celebrations as a way to connect with the land and the ancestors.

How to Wish Someone a Happy Birthday in Hawaiian

When it comes to celebrating birthdays, every culture has its own unique traditions and customs. In Hawaii, one way to make someone’s special day even more memorable is by wishing them a happy birthday in the Hawaiian language.

The Hawaiian language is rich with beautiful words and phrases that convey warmth, joy, and love. Here are some ways to wish someone a happy birthday in Hawaiian:

“Hauʻoli lā hānau”

The most common way to say happy birthday in Hawaiian is “Hauʻoli lā hānau”. This phrase is pronounced as “how-oh-lee lah hah-now” and translates directly to “happy day of birth”.

It is the equivalent of the English phrase “happy birthday” and is widely used in Hawaii to celebrate birthdays.

Other Common Birthday Wishes

Aside from “Hauʻoli lā hānau”, there are other phrases that can be used to wish someone a happy birthday in Hawaiian. For example, you can say “Hauʻoli lā hānau iāʻoe”, which means “happy birthday to you”.

Another common phrase is “Hauʻoli lā hānau me ka aloha”, which translates to “happy birthday with love”.

Birthday Wishes for Friends vs. Family

In Hawaiian culture, the way you express birthday wishes can vary depending on whether you are addressing a friend or a family member. For friends, you can use the phrase “E hoʻomākaukau i ka hānau”, which means “let’s celebrate your birthday”. This conveys a sense of excitement and anticipation for the festivities.

On the other hand, for family members, you can use the phrase “Ke akua e hoʻomaikaʻi iāʻoe i kou lā hānau”, which translates to “may God bless you on your birthday”. This shows respect and reverence for family ties.

Pronunciation Tips and Examples

Pronouncing Hawaiian words can be a bit challenging for those unfamiliar with the language. To help you, here are some pronunciation tips:

  • The letter “a” is pronounced like “ah” in “father”.
  • The letter “e” is pronounced like “eh” in “bed”.
  • The letter “i” is pronounced like “ee” in “see”.
  • The letter “o” is pronounced like “oh” in “go”.
  • The letter “u” is pronounced like “oo” in “food”.
  • The “ʻokina” character (ʻ) represents a glottal stop, similar to the sound between the syllables “uh-oh”.

With these tips in mind, you can confidently wish someone a happy birthday in Hawaiian and impress them with your knowledge of the language. So go ahead and spread some aloha by saying “Hauʻoli lā hānau” to your loved ones!

Giving Birthday Gifts in Hawaiian Culture

In Hawaiian culture, birthdays are special occasions that are celebrated with joy and gratitude. The act of giving gifts is an important part of these celebrations, symbolizing love, appreciation, and well wishes for the recipient.

Whether you are visiting Hawaii or simply want to incorporate Hawaiian customs into your own birthday celebrations, understanding traditional and modern Hawaiian birthday gifts, as well as the gift etiquette and customs, can enhance the experience and make it even more meaningful.

Traditional Hawaiian Birthday Gifts

In the past, traditional Hawaiian birthday gifts often reflected the close connection between the Hawaiian people and nature. Some popular traditional gifts include:

  • Leis: Leis are traditional Hawaiian garlands made from flowers, leaves, and shells. They are given as a symbol of affection and are often worn around the neck or presented as a gift.
  • Handmade Crafts: Hawaiians have a rich tradition of creating intricate and beautiful crafts. Handmade items such as woven baskets, wooden carvings, or feathered capes are considered thoughtful and meaningful gifts.
  • Kukui Nut Necklace: The kukui nut is a symbol of enlightenment and protection. Gifting a kukui nut necklace is believed to bring good luck and positive energy to the recipient.

Modern Birthday Gifts in Hawaii

While traditional gifts still hold significance in Hawaiian culture, modern birthday gifts in Hawaii have become more diverse and reflect the changing times. Some popular modern gifts include:

  • Hawaiian Jewelry: Beautifully crafted jewelry made with traditional Hawaiian symbols and materials, such as black coral or koa wood, make for unique and cherished gifts.
  • Local Artwork: Hawaii is known for its vibrant art scene. Gifting a piece of local artwork, such as a painting or sculpture, not only supports local artists but also adds a touch of Hawaii’s beauty to the recipient’s life.
  • Hawaiian Music: Music plays a significant role in Hawaiian culture. Gifting a Hawaiian music album or concert tickets to a local artist’s performance can be a delightful way to celebrate a birthday.

Gift Etiquette and Customs

Gift etiquette

When giving birthday gifts in Hawaiian culture, it is important to keep in mind certain etiquette and customs:

  • Present the Gift with Aloha: The Hawaiian spirit of aloha emphasizes love, kindness, and unity. When presenting a gift, do so with genuine warmth and sincerity.
  • Add a Personal Touch: Adding a handwritten note or a small personalized item to the gift can make it even more special and show the recipient that you put thought and effort into choosing the gift.
  • Avoid Giving Sharp Objects: In Hawaiian culture, it is considered bad luck to give sharp objects as gifts, as they may symbolize cutting ties or causing harm.

By understanding the traditional and modern Hawaiian birthday gifts, as well as the gift etiquette and customs, you can ensure that your birthday celebrations in Hawaii or incorporating Hawaiian customs into your own celebrations are truly memorable and filled with the spirit of aloha.

How to Sing “Happy Birthday” in Hawaiian

Phonetics and Lyrics

Saying ‘Happy Birthday’ in Hawaiian is a wonderful way to celebrate someone’s special day with a touch of the Aloha spirit. In Hawaiian, ‘Happy Birthday’ is expressed as “Hau’oli Lā Hānau”. Let’s break it down:

– “Hau’oli” (pronounced how-oh-lee) means “happy” or “joyful“.

– “Lā” (pronounced la) means “day“.

– “Hānau” (pronounced ha-now) means “birth” or “to give birth“.

So, when you put it all together, “Hau’oli Lā Hānau” translates to “Happy Birthday” in Hawaiian. It’s a beautiful phrase that captures the essence of celebration and new beginnings in the Hawaiian language.

Other Popular Birthday Songs in Hawaii

While ‘Hau’oli Lā Hānau’ is the most common way to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in Hawaiian, there are other popular birthday songs that are frequently sung in Hawaii. Here are a few examples:

  • – “E Pili Mai” – This song is often sung at birthday celebrations and expresses well wishes for the person’s life journey.
  • – “No Hae Hawai’i” – This song celebrates the beauty of the Hawaiian islands and is often sung to honor someone’s birthday.
  • – “Aloha ‘Oe” – While not specifically a birthday song, ‘Aloha ‘Oe’ is a beloved Hawaiian song that is often performed at special occasions, including birthdays.

These songs add a unique touch to birthday celebrations in Hawaii and further showcase the rich cultural heritage of the islands.

So, the next time you want to wish someone a “Happy Birthday” in Hawaiian, remember the phrase “Hau’oli Lā Hānau” and consider adding some of these other popular birthday songs to your celebration.

It’s a wonderful way to embrace the Hawaiian culture and make someone’s special day even more memorable.

Read also: How To Say “Enjoy” In Hawaiian


Mahalo for joining us on this journey through Hawaiian birthday traditions and phrases! We hope you now feel confident wishing someone a happy birthday in Hawaiian.

The Hawaiian language is beautiful and musical. Using these special phrases to celebrate a birthday is a thoughtful way to honor Hawaiian culture and spread aloha.

The next time it’s someone’s birthday, surprise them with “Hauʻoli lā hānau!” Or sing them “Happy Birthday” in Hawaiian. However you say it, your Hawaiian birthday wish will surely make their day extra special.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts