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Aloha! If you’re looking up the Hawaiian term for ‘little one’, you’ve come to the right place. In the Hawaiian language, there are a few different words that can mean ‘little one’ or ‘child’.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The most common Hawaiian word for ‘little one’ or ‘child’ is keiki.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the origins and meanings behind keiki and other Hawaiian words for ‘little one’. We’ll look at example sentences, cultural context, and tips for using these endearing terms correctly. Whether you’re learning Hawaiian yourself or looking for an authentic Hawaiian name, you’ll find everything you need to know here.

The Meaning and Use of the Word ‘Keiki’

In Hawaiian, the word ‘keiki’ holds a special significance. It is commonly used to refer to a child or a young person. However, its meaning goes beyond just the literal translation. ‘Keiki’ is derived from the Proto-Polynesian word ‘tama’ which means ‘child.’ This word has been passed down through generations and has become an integral part of Hawaiian culture.

Literal Translation and Origin

The literal translation of ‘keiki’ as ‘child’ reflects its primary meaning. In Hawaiian society, children are seen as a precious gift and a symbol of hope for the future. The word ‘keiki’ encompasses this sentiment and is often used to express endearment towards young individuals. It is important to note that ‘keiki’ can refer to both boys and girls, and is not gender-specific.

The origin of the word ‘keiki’ can be traced back to the Polynesian settlers who first arrived in Hawaii. They brought with them their language and cultural practices, including the term ‘tama’ for child. Over time, the pronunciation and spelling of the word evolved, resulting in the modern-day ‘keiki’ used in Hawaiian.

Modern Usage and Connotations

In modern Hawaiian society, the word ‘keiki’ is widely used in various contexts. It is commonly used by parents, teachers, and caregivers to refer to children. Additionally, it is often used in educational settings and community events to emphasize the importance of nurturing and supporting the younger generation.

The use of ‘keiki’ also extends beyond just referring to children. It can be used to describe a person with youthful energy or innocence. For example, if someone is described as having a “keiki-like spirit,” it means they possess a youthful enthusiasm and optimism.

It is worth mentioning that the word ‘keiki’ carries positive connotations and is generally used to evoke a sense of warmth, affection, and protection. It is a term that encapsulates the love and care that Hawaiians have for their younger ones.

Other Hawaiian Words for ‘Little One’


In addition to “little one,” another Hawaiian word that can be used to refer to a young girl or daughter is “kaikamahine.” This term is often used by parents or family members when addressing or referring to their daughters. It carries a sense of endearment and affection, similar to how “little one” does in English. The word “kaikamahine” is a combination of “kai,” meaning “sea” or “ocean,” and “kamahine,” meaning “girl” or “daughter.” So, when you use “kaikamahine,” you are essentially calling your daughter a “sea girl” or a “daughter of the ocean.” Isn’t that a beautiful and poetic way to describe your little girl?


Another term that can be used to refer to a “little one” in Hawaiian is “kamaiki.” This word is often used to describe a young child or a small person, regardless of their gender. It is a more general term that can be used for both boys and girls. So, if you want to address a young child or refer to them as a “little one” in Hawaiian, you can use the word “kamaiki.” It is a simple and sweet way to show affection and endearment towards a young child.

Nā Kama

In Hawaiian, the term “nā kama” can be used to refer to a group of “little ones” or children. The word “nā” is a plural article, and “kama” means “child” or “children.” So, when you say “nā kama,” you are essentially saying “the children” or “the little ones.” This term can be used to refer to a group of children in a casual or formal setting, such as in a classroom or a family gathering. It is a versatile and inclusive term that encompasses all the “little ones” in a given context.

These are just a few examples of other Hawaiian words that can be used to refer to a “little one.” The Hawaiian language is rich in terms of endearment and affection, and these words reflect the deep connection the Hawaiian people have with their culture and loved ones. If you want to learn more about the Hawaiian language and its beautiful words, you can visit, a fantastic resource that provides a comprehensive list of Hawaiian words and their meanings.

Using Hawaiian Words for ‘Little One’ in Context

When it comes to understanding the meaning of ‘little one’ in Hawaiian, it’s important to consider the context in which the phrase is used. Hawaiian language, like many other languages, has different words and phrases to convey the concept of ‘little one’ depending on the situation. Let’s explore some common phrases and sentences and discuss how to choose the appropriate word for your specific situation.

Common Phrases and Sentences

One commonly used Hawaiian word for ‘little one’ is “keiki.” This term is often used to refer to children or young individuals. For example, you might say “E komo mai, keiki” to welcome a child into a space. Another term that can be used is “pēpē,” which specifically refers to infants or babies. So if you want to say “Cute little baby!” in Hawaiian, you might say “Pēpē nani loa!”

It’s important to note that Hawaiian phrases often have deeper cultural connotations. For instance, the word “mō’īkālua” refers to a child who is cherished and valued. This term carries a sense of reverence and respect for the child. Similarly, “kāneki” is a term used to address a son or a young boy. It shows a level of affection and endearment towards the child.

Choosing Appropriately for Your Situation

When choosing the appropriate Hawaiian word for ‘little one,’ it’s essential to consider the age, relationship, and level of formality. For example, if you are referring to a young child, using “keiki” would be appropriate. On the other hand, if you are addressing an infant or a baby, using “pēpē” would be more suitable.

It’s also important to be mindful of the cultural nuances associated with these words. When addressing a child who is cherished, using “mō’īkālua” would convey a deeper level of appreciation and respect. Similarly, using “kāneki” would show affection and endearment towards a son or a young boy.

Remember, when using Hawaiian words for ‘little one,’ it’s not just about the literal translation but also about understanding and respecting the cultural context in which these words are used.

If you want to dive deeper into the Hawaiian language and its cultural significance, you can visit the Hawaiian Encyclopedia website for more information.

Cultural Significance of ‘Keiki’ and Other Endearing Terms

In Hawaiian culture, family holds a special place of importance. The concept of ‘ohana’, which means family, extends beyond blood relations and encompasses a sense of community and belonging. Within this cultural framework, endearing terms like ‘keiki’ (meaning “little one” or “child”) play a significant role in expressing love, affection, and respect for children. These terms reflect the deep-rooted belief that children are not just the future, but also the embodiment of the past and present.

Importance of Family in Hawaiian Culture

Family is the cornerstone of Hawaiian culture, and the bond between parents and children is particularly cherished. The term ‘keiki’, used to refer to a child, carries with it a sense of endearment and tenderness. It is a way of acknowledging the importance of children in preserving and perpetuating Hawaiian traditions and values. By using this term, Hawaiians emphasize their commitment to nurturing and protecting the younger generation, ensuring that their heritage is passed down with love and care.

Furthermore, ‘keiki’ is often used in broader contexts to refer to all children, not just those within one’s immediate family. This inclusive use of the term reflects the communal nature of Hawaiian society, where everyone is seen as a member of the extended ‘ohana’. It reinforces the idea that children are not only loved and supported by their immediate families but also by the larger community.

Respecting the Dignity and Value of Children

In Hawaiian culture, children are regarded as sacred beings with their own unique mana (spiritual power). They are seen as gifts from the divine and are treated with utmost respect and reverence. The use of endearing terms like ‘keiki’ is a way of acknowledging and honoring the inherent dignity and value of children.

By using these terms, Hawaiians affirm the importance of nurturing and protecting children, ensuring that they grow up in an environment where their voices are heard, and their needs are met. This cultural emphasis on the well-being and empowerment of children aligns with the broader global movement towards recognizing the rights and potential of young individuals.

Tips for Using Hawaiian Pet Names and Terms of Endearment

Pronunciation and Spelling

Hawaiian is a beautiful language with its own set of unique sounds and spelling rules. When using Hawaiian pet names and terms of endearment, it’s important to understand the correct pronunciation and spelling. For example, the term “Little One” in Hawaiian is spelled as “Ikiiki.” The “i” in Hawaiian is pronounced as “ee,” and the double “i” indicates a long vowel sound. So, when using this term, make sure to pronounce it as “ee-kee-kee.”

It can be helpful to listen to audio recordings or watch videos of native Hawaiian speakers to get a better grasp of the pronunciation. There are also online resources and language learning apps that can assist you in learning the correct pronunciation and spelling of Hawaiian words and phrases.

When to Use Formal vs. Informal Language

In Hawaiian culture, the use of formal and informal language is important, especially when it comes to addressing others. When using Hawaiian pet names and terms of endearment, it’s essential to consider the appropriate level of formality for the situation.

For example, if you are addressing a close friend or family member, it is more appropriate to use informal language and pet names. “Ikiiki” would be a sweet and affectionate term to use in this context. However, if you are addressing someone in a more formal setting or a person of higher status, it is best to use formal language and terms of respect.

It’s important to note that Hawaiian language and cultural norms can vary depending on the specific context and relationship. If you are unsure about the appropriate level of formality, it’s always a good idea to ask someone who is knowledgeable about the culture or consult reputable sources or websites, such as the official website of the Hawaiian Language Commission (

By understanding the correct pronunciation and spelling of Hawaiian words and considering the appropriate level of formality, you can confidently use Hawaiian pet names and terms of endearment in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner.


In Hawaiian culture, terms of endearment for children carry deep meaning. Calling someone ‘keiki’ expresses love, respect, and care for their wellbeing. Beyond just a word, it represents the strong bonds within ohana (family).

We hope this overview gave you a meaningful look at the Hawaiian way of cherishing little ones. With this knowledge, you can now use words like ‘keiki’ appropriately and sensitively. It’s one small way to honor the richness of Native Hawaiian language and culture. Mahalo for reading, and aloha!

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