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 language is full of beauty and meaning. Many Hawaiian words give insight into the history and culture of the islands. One such word is luna, which has a fascinating background.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Luna means boss, or supervisor in Hawaiian.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the origins, definitions, and uses of the Hawaiian word luna. We will look at how it developed over time and how it is used today. Whether you are learning Hawaiian, studying Hawaii’s history, or just interested in the language, you will find new insights into this significant word.

The Etymology and Meaning of Luna in Hawaiian

Hawaii, a land known for its rich culture and unique language, has a word that holds significant meaning – “luna”. Derived from the Polynesian language, the word “luna” has a fascinating etymology and carries multiple definitions that reflect its historical and cultural context.

The Roots of the Word Luna

The correlation between the moon and leadership in Hawaii stems from ancient Hawaiian beliefs. Hawaiian mythology ascribes qualities of wisdom, guidance, and leadership to the moon.

Consequently, the term “luna,” representing an authority figure, draws deeply from the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Hawaiian people.

Definitions of Luna as an Authority Figure

In the Hawaiian context, “luna” refers to someone who holds a position of authority or leadership. It can be used to describe a supervisor, manager, or boss.

For example, in a workplace setting, a “luna” is someone who oversees and directs the work of others.

The term is also used in educational institutions, where a “luna” may be a principal or headteacher.

Furthermore, “luna” can be used to describe a person who holds a position of authority in the community, such as a chief or village leader. These individuals are respected and revered for their wisdom, knowledge, and ability to guide their community in making important decisions.

Other Usages of Luna in Hawaiian

Besides denoting authority figures, “luna” can also be used in various other contexts in Hawaiian.

For instance, it can refer to the upper part or higher level of something. In Hawaiian geography, the term “luna” is used to describe the mountain peaks or highlands.

Additionally, “luna” can be used to indicate a position or rank in a hierarchy. In traditional Hawaiian society, people were organized into different social classes, and “luna” was used to describe those who held higher positions in the social order.

The word “luna” in Hawaiian carries a rich history and cultural significance. Its meaning as an authority figure reflects the deep respect and admiration that the Hawaiian people have for those who possess leadership qualities.

Whether used to describe a boss, a community leader, or a higher position in a hierarchy, “luna” captures the essence of wisdom, guidance, and influence in the Hawaiian language.

Also read: What Is Grandma Called In Hawaiian?

The Role of the Luna in Hawaiian History

The word “luna” holds significant meaning in Hawaiian culture and history. In the Hawaiian language, “luna” translates to “supervisor” or “overseer.”

Lunas played a crucial role in the development of Hawaii, particularly during the era of sugar and pineapple plantations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Luna as Overseers on Plantations

On the plantations, lunas were responsible for overseeing the daily operations and managing the labor force.

They acted as intermediaries between the plantation owners and the workers, ensuring that tasks were carried out efficiently and according to the plantation’s guidelines.

The role of the luna required a combination of leadership, managerial skills, and cultural understanding, as they were often tasked with managing a diverse workforce consisting of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Portuguese laborers.

Lunas had the challenging responsibility of maintaining order and enforcing discipline on the plantations. They were responsible for assigning tasks, monitoring productivity, and resolving conflicts among the workers.

Additionally, lunas were responsible for implementing and enforcing the rules and regulations set by the plantation owners.

Also read: Why Are There So Many Asians In Hawaii?

Changes to the Role of the Luna Over Time

As Hawaii transitioned from an agricultural economy to a more diversified one, the role of the luna underwent significant changes.

With the decline of the plantation era, the need for lunas diminished, and their position gradually faded away. However, the legacy of the luna and their contributions to Hawaiian history remain significant.

Today, the word “luna” is still used in Hawaii to refer to supervisors or managers in various industries.

While the role may have evolved, the term continues to carry a sense of authority and leadership.

For more information on the history and culture of Hawaii, you can visit

Examples of Luna Used in Context

Luna in Old Hawaiian Texts

In ancient Hawaiian texts, the word “luna” was used to refer to a person of high status or authority. These individuals were often leaders or chiefs within the community, and they held positions of power and influence.

The term “luna” was associated with qualities such as wisdom, strength, and leadership. It represented someone who was respected and admired by the people.

For example, in the Kumulipo, a Hawaiian creation chant, there is a line that says, “He luna nui ke keiki a Kāne” which translates to “The child of Kāne is a great leader.”

This line highlights the significance of the word “luna” in recognizing a person’s leadership abilities and their important role within the community.

Furthermore, in the Moʻokūʻauhau, a genealogical chant, the line “Nā luna o ka ʻāina” is used to describe the leaders or chiefs of the land. This emphasizes the idea that those in positions of authority were considered the “luna” or leaders of the community.

Modern Usage of the Term Luna

In modern Hawaiian society, the term “luna” is still used to refer to individuals in positions of authority or leadership. However, its usage has expanded to include various fields and professions.

For instance, in the workplace, the term “luna” is often used to describe supervisors or managers. These individuals are seen as leaders within their respective departments or organizations, responsible for guiding and directing their teams.

In addition, “luna” can also be used in the context of education, where it refers to school administrators or principals. These individuals play a crucial role in shaping the educational environment and ensuring the success of both students and teachers.

Also read: Where Does Hawaii Rank In Education?

Cultural Significance of the Word Luna

The Hawaiian word “luna” holds deep cultural significance within the history of Hawaii. It represents the concept of authority and hierarchy, which played an important role in ancient Hawaiian society.

Understanding the cultural context surrounding the word “luna” provides valuable insights into the traditional Hawaiian way of life.

Importance of Authority and Hierarchy in Ancient Hawaii

In ancient Hawaii, authority and hierarchy were fundamental aspects of the social structure.

The word “luna” referred to a person in a position of authority, such as a leader, chief, or supervisor. Lunas were respected individuals who held significant power and responsibility within their communities.

The role of a luna extended beyond mere leadership; they were also responsible for maintaining harmony and order within their respective spheres of influence.

Lunas were expected to possess wisdom, fairness, and a deep understanding of their people’s needs. They acted as mediators, resolving conflicts and making decisions that would benefit the community as a whole.

One example of the importance of authority in ancient Hawaii is the position of the luna ho’omalu, who was responsible for the protection and management of natural resources.

This role highlights the recognition of the need for sustainable practices and the preservation of the environment, even in ancient times.

Lasting Impact of the Luna Legacy

The legacy of the luna continues to influence Hawaiian culture to this day.

The word “luna” is still used in contemporary Hawaiian language and is often associated with positions of authority and leadership in various fields.

For instance, in modern Hawaiian society, the term “luna nui” is used to refer to a high-ranking executive or manager.

This reflects the enduring influence of the ancient Hawaiian concept of leadership and the respect accorded to individuals in positions of authority.

The cultural significance of the word “luna” is also evident in the importance placed on respecting and honoring elders in Hawaiian culture.

The wisdom and experience of those in positions of authority are highly valued, and their guidance and advice are sought after.

To delve deeper into the cultural significance of the word “luna” and its role in ancient Hawaiian society, you can visit the official website of the Bishop Museum, a renowned institution that focuses on the preservation and promotion of Hawaiian history and culture.

Related Hawaiian Terms for Overseers and Bosses

Luna Nui

In the Hawaiian language, “luna nui” refers to a high-ranking overseer or boss. The term “luna” means “overseer” or “supervisor,” while “nui” translates to “big” or “great.”

Therefore, a “luna nui” is someone who holds a position of authority and responsibility in a particular organization or community.

This term is often used to describe individuals who are in charge of managing a team or department. They are responsible for making important decisions, delegating tasks, and ensuring that the work is carried out efficiently.

The role of a “luna nui” is crucial in maintaining the smooth functioning of an organization.


Another term used in Hawaiian culture to refer to an overseer or boss is “ilāmuku.” This term is often associated with someone who is in charge of a specific project or task.

The word “ilāmuku” can be broken down into two parts: “ilā” which means “to supervise” or “to manage,” and “muku” which means “to complete” or “to finish.”

Therefore, an “ilāmuku” is someone who oversees and ensures the successful completion of a project or task.

They are responsible for coordinating the efforts of the team members, providing guidance and support, and ensuring that the project is carried out within the given timeframe and budget.

The role of an “ilāmuku” requires strong leadership skills and the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with others.


The term “loea” in Hawaiian culture refers to a highly respected and knowledgeable individual who holds a position of authority or expertise.

While not specifically used to describe an overseer or boss, the term “loea” is often associated with individuals who have achieved a high level of mastery in a particular field.

They are recognized for their wisdom, skills, and contributions to their community. Although not directly related to the role of a boss or overseer, the concept of a “loea” highlights the importance of expertise and leadership in Hawaiian culture.

It emphasizes the value placed on individuals who have excelled in their respective fields and have become trusted sources of knowledge and guidance.

Also read: A Comprehensive History Of The Rulers Of Hawaii


The Hawaiian word luna has a complex history intertwined with Hawaii’s culture. Originally referring to overseers and supervisors within the Native Hawaiian community, it took on new meanings on the plantations during colonization.

Despite sometimes negative connotations, luna remains an important part of the Hawaiian language.

Understanding words like luna sheds light on Hawaii’s past and present. Through researching the origins and uses of luna, we gain a deeper appreciation for Hawaiian language and knowledge.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts