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Aloha! If you’re wondering about the most popular surnames in Hawaii, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll provide a deep dive into the origins and meanings behind common Hawaiian last names that you’ll frequently encounter across the islands.

In a nutshell, most common Hawaiian last names are Anglicized versions of native Hawaiian words and names. The most frequent ones stem from Hawaiian royalty, nature, and geography.

A Brief History of Hawaiian Last Names

Understanding the history and origins of Hawaiian last names gives us insight into the rich cultural heritage of the Hawaiian people. Let’s take a journey back in time to explore how these names came to be.

Adoption of Surnames in the 19th Century

Prior to the arrival of Western influences, Hawaiians did not use surnames. Instead, they identified themselves through their given names and genealogical connections. However, with the increasing contact with European and American settlers in the 19th century, the need for surnames arose.

During this time, many Hawaiians started adopting surnames to meet the demands of the changing society. These surnames were often based on the occupation, location, or personal characteristics of the individual. For example, last names like Kalama (torch), Pono (righteousness), and Mahelona (wounded) were derived from attributes or experiences.

It’s important to note that the adoption of surnames was not universally embraced by all Hawaiians. Some individuals and families chose to keep their traditional naming practices, which were deeply rooted in their cultural traditions.

Anglicization of Hawaiian Words and Names

With the arrival of Western missionaries and the spread of Christianity in Hawaii, there was a push to anglicize Hawaiian words and names. As a result, many Hawaiian last names underwent changes in spelling and pronunciation to align with English conventions.

This anglicization process led to variations in the spelling of Hawaiian last names, making it sometimes difficult to trace their true origins. For example, the last name “Kamaka” may be spelled as “Camacho” or “Camacko” in certain instances.

Today, many Hawaiian last names still reflect this anglicization process, as well as the diverse cultural influences that have shaped Hawaii’s history. It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Hawaiian people.

To learn more about Hawaiian last names and their origins, you can visit the Hawaiian Encyclopedia, a comprehensive resource on Hawaiian culture and history.

The Most Common Hawaiian Last Names

Hawaii is a unique cultural melting pot, and this is reflected in its diverse range of last names. From names of royalty to nature-inspired names, here are some of the most common Hawaiian last names and their origins.

Kalākaua and Līloa – Names of Royalty

The Hawaiian monarchy has a rich history, and some of the most common last names in Hawaii are associated with royalty. One example is the last name Kalākaua, which was the name of a Hawaiian king who reigned in the late 19th century. Another royal last name is Līloa, which has been passed down through generations and is associated with Hawaiian nobility. These names serve as a reminder of Hawaii’s regal past and the importance of its monarchy.

Kealoha and Kamaka – Nature-Inspired Names

Hawaii’s natural beauty is a constant source of inspiration, and this is reflected in many Hawaiian last names. Kealoha, for example, means “the love” in Hawaiian and represents a deep appreciation for the natural world. Kamaka, on the other hand, means “child of the earth” and symbolizes a close connection to the land. These nature-inspired names not only reflect the beauty of Hawaii but also the deep respect that Hawaiians have for their environment.

Kai and Lani – Ocean and Heavenly Names

Given that Hawaii is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean and has a close relationship with the heavens, it’s no surprise that last names related to these elements are common. The name Kai, which means “ocean” in Hawaiian, is a popular last name that reflects the deep connection Hawaiians have with the sea. Lani, meaning “heaven” or “sky,” is another common last name that represents the spiritual beliefs and connection to the celestial realm. These names pay homage to the natural elements that shape Hawaii’s identity.

Understanding the origins of common Hawaiian last names provides insight into the rich cultural heritage of the islands. Whether it’s names associated with royalty, nature-inspired names, or those related to the ocean and heavens, these last names serve as a reminder of Hawaii’s unique history and the values that are cherished by its people.

The Meanings Behind Hawaiian Last Names

Hawaiian last names, also known as surnames or family names, often hold deep cultural and historical significance. They can provide valuable insights into the ancestral roots and traditions of the Hawaiian people. Let’s explore some of the meanings behind these fascinating last names.

Royal and Ali’i Names

In Hawaiian culture, certain last names are associated with royalty and nobility. These names are often passed down through generations and hold a sense of prestige and honor. Examples of such names include Kalakaua, Kamehameha, and Lili’uokalani. These names are a testament to the rich history and monarchy that once ruled the Hawaiian islands.

Nature and Element-Inspired Names

Hawaii’s breathtaking natural beauty has greatly influenced the naming conventions of its people. Many last names are inspired by elements of nature, such as the ocean, mountains, and plants. For instance, the last name Kai refers to the sea, while Mauna represents the mountains. These names reflect the deep connection and reverence Hawaiians have for their natural surroundings.

Geographical Names

Geographical features also play a significant role in Hawaiian last names. Many surnames are derived from specific locations or landmarks on the islands. Names like Honolulu, meaning “sheltered bay,” and Hilo, which refers to a town on the Big Island, are examples of this naming convention. These names provide a glimpse into the ancestral ties to different regions of Hawaii.

By understanding the meanings behind Hawaiian last names, we gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural heritage and traditions of the Hawaiian people. These names serve as a reminder of the rich history and connection to the land that continues to be cherished by the people of Hawaii.


To wrap up, traditional Hawaiian last names originated in the 19th century from native Hawaiian words reflecting royal lineage, nature, and island geography. The most frequent surnames you’ll find in Hawaii today are Anglicized versions, with meanings connected to Hawaiian roots. Understanding the background of these names provides a glimpse into Hawaii’s rich culture and history.

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