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The Hawaiian word pau is rich with meaning. At its most basic, it signifies the end or conclusion of something, but pau has nuances that give it broader symbolism relating to Hawaiian culture and values.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Pau is a Hawaiian word with multiple meanings, but its primary definitions relate to ending, finishing, being done with, being exhausted or depleted, being out of something, and dying or death. Pau can apply to the end of an object, event, or period of time.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the origins and meanings behind pau in Hawaiian. We will cover its linguistic definitions and grammatical uses, look at symbolic and cultural associations, and provide examples of pau used in Hawaiian phrases and expressions.

The Literal Definitions of Pau in Hawaiian

Signifying the End, Conclusion, or Depletion of Something

In Hawaiian, the word “pau” carries multiple meanings, one of which is signaling the end, conclusion, or depletion of something. This versatile word is often used to describe the completion of an activity or the conclusion of an event. For example, when someone finishes a task, they might say “Pau!” to indicate that it is done. Similarly, at the end of a performance or a presentation, the phrase “Mahalo nui loa, pau!” is often used to express gratitude and signify the conclusion of the event.

Moreover, “pau” can also be used to indicate the depletion or exhaustion of something. For instance, if you have finished eating all the food on your plate, you might say “Pau ka mea ‘ai” to convey that the food is gone or no longer available. Similarly, if you have used up all the ink in your pen, you could say “Pau ka pena” to express that the pen is now empty.

Indicating Something is Used Up, Gone, or No Longer Available

Another meaning of “pau” in Hawaiian is to indicate that something is used up, gone, or no longer available. This can be applied to various situations in daily life. For example, if you are looking for a specific item in a store, and it is sold out, you might ask the storekeeper, “Pau ka mea nei?” meaning “Is this item gone?”. Similarly, if you are searching for a particular ingredient in your kitchen and realize that it is all used up, you could say “Pau ka mea’ai” to express that the ingredient is no longer available.

It is important to note that the word “pau” has a broader cultural significance in Hawaii beyond its literal definitions. It represents the concept of completion, finality, and the cyclical nature of life. Understanding the multiple meanings of “pau” allows us to appreciate the rich cultural heritage and language of Hawaii.

Cultural and Symbolic Meanings of Pau

The word “pau” holds a rich cultural significance in Hawaiian language and traditions. It encompasses a range of meanings that reflect the deep-rooted cultural beliefs and values of the Hawaiian people. Let’s explore some of the multifaceted meanings associated with “pau”.

Pau as Death, Loss, and Transition

In Hawaiian culture, “pau” is often associated with the concept of death, loss, and transition. When someone passes away, it is customary to say “pau” to acknowledge their departure from this earthly realm. The word carries a sense of finality and completion, signifying the end of one’s journey in this life and the beginning of a new phase.

Pau can also represent the process of letting go and moving on from something that has come to an end. It symbolizes the closure of a chapter, allowing space for new beginnings and growth. Whether it be the end of a relationship, a job, or a phase in life, pau reminds us to embrace change and find solace in the cycle of life.

Pau Hana: End of Work

“Pau hana” is a commonly used phrase in Hawaii that translates to “end of work” or “finished with work.” It signifies the completion of a productive day’s work and the beginning of leisure time or relaxation. Pau hana is often associated with the Hawaiian concept of work-life balance, emphasizing the importance of taking time to unwind and enjoy life outside of work.

In Hawaii, pau hana is not just a phrase but also a cultural tradition. It is common for people to gather with friends and family after work to socialize, engage in recreational activities, or simply unwind. Pau hana represents a time to reconnect with loved ones, celebrate accomplishments, and rejuvenate the mind and body.

Pauahi: The Ending of Light

Pauahi, derived from the word “pau” and the name “Pauahi,” holds a unique symbolic meaning in Hawaiian culture. Pauahi is associated with the setting sun and the gradual fading of light. It represents the transition from daylight to darkness and the end of another day.

The concept of pauahi serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of appreciating each passing moment. It encourages us to reflect on the day’s events, express gratitude, and prepare for the upcoming night’s rest. Pauahi teaches us to embrace the beauty of endings and find peace in the natural rhythm of life.

Exploring the cultural and symbolic meanings of “pau” in Hawaiian language provides us with a deeper understanding of the rich heritage and values of the Hawaiian people. It invites us to embrace the concepts of transition, balance, and appreciation for the cycles of life. So, the next time you encounter the word “pau,” take a moment to reflect on its multifaceted meanings and the wisdom it imparts.

Grammatical Uses of Pau in Hawaiian

As a Verb Denoting Completion

In Hawaiian, the word “pau” is often used as a verb to indicate completion or finishing something. This versatile word can be used in various contexts, such as completing a task or finishing a meal. For example, if you have finished eating, you can say “Pau ka ʻai” which means “The food is finished.” Similarly, if you have completed a project, you can say “ʻO ka hana i pau” which translates to “The work is done.” This usage of “pau” highlights its role as a verb denoting completion.

As a Noun Signifying a Conclusion

Besides being used as a verb, “pau” can also function as a noun in Hawaiian, signifying a conclusion or end. For instance, you can use the phrase “ʻO ka pau nō” to mean “That’s the end” or “It’s over.” This usage of “pau” as a noun emphasizes the finality of a situation or the end of a particular event. It is worth noting that “pau” can also be used in a more metaphorical sense, representing the end of a relationship or the conclusion of a chapter in one’s life.

In Phrases Signaling Finality

Additionally, “pau” is commonly used in various phrases in Hawaiian that signal finality or completion. One such phrase is “hoʻi mai i kou hale i pau ai kou hana” which translates to “Return home when your work is finished.” This phrase highlights the importance of completing tasks before returning home. Another example is “pau ka hauʻoli” which means “happiness is finished” and is used to express a state of sadness or disappointment. These phrases demonstrate how “pau” is integrated into the Hawaiian language to convey the idea of finality or completion.

For more information about the Hawaiian language and its grammatical uses, you can visit the Hawaiian Language website, which offers a comprehensive guide to the language and its cultural significance.

Examples of Pau in Context

Pau ka uka – The rain has ended

In Hawaiian, the phrase “Pau ka uka” is used to indicate that the rain has stopped. This expression is commonly used when people want to convey that a period of rainfall has come to an end. It can be quite useful when planning outdoor activities, as it lets you know when it’s safe to venture outside without getting wet. So, next time you see blue skies after a rainstorm in Hawaii, you can confidently say, “Pau ka uka!” 😊

Pau ka hana – The work is done

“Pau ka hana” is a Hawaiian phrase that translates to “The work is done.” This expression is often used to signify the completion of a task or project. It can be a satisfying phrase to utter after a long day of hard work, indicating that all your efforts have paid off. So, the next time you finish a demanding project or assignment, celebrate by saying, “Pau ka hana!” 👏

Pau ka `ai – The food is gone

When you’re enjoying a delicious meal in Hawaii and you reach the end of your plate, you can use the phrase “Pau ka `ai” to express that the food is gone. It’s a simple and concise way to communicate that you’ve finished your meal and are fully satisfied. Whether you’re dining at a local restaurant or enjoying a traditional Hawaiian feast, don’t forget to use this phrase to let everyone know you’ve cleaned your plate! 🍽️

For more information about Hawaiian language and culture, you can visit Hawaii History Center and `Olelo Online.

The Lasting Significance of Pau in Hawaiian Language and Lore

The word “pau” holds a multifaceted meaning in the Hawaiian language and is deeply ingrained in the cultural lore of the islands. It is a word that carries a sense of completion, finality, and closure. Understanding the lasting significance of “pau” can provide valuable insights into the rich traditions and values of the Hawaiian people.

The Concept of Completion

In Hawaiian, “pau” is often used to express the notion of something being finished or complete. It signifies the end of a task, an event, or a phase in one’s life. For example, if you have completed a hike to the summit of a mountain, you might say “Pau!” to indicate that you have reached your goal. This concept of completion is deeply rooted in the Hawaiian culture, emphasizing the importance of setting goals and persevering until they are achieved.

Symbolism in Hawaiian Lore

Beyond its linguistic meaning, “pau” holds symbolic significance in Hawaiian lore. It is associated with the concept of transformation and rebirth. In ancient Hawaiian traditions, the word “pau” was often used in chants and rituals to mark the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. It represented a time of growth, learning, and personal evolution. This symbolism reflects the profound connection the Hawaiian people have with their natural surroundings and the cyclical nature of life.

Implications for Hawaiian Values

The enduring significance of “pau” in Hawaiian language and lore speaks to the values deeply cherished by the Hawaiian people. It emphasizes the importance of perseverance, determination, and the pursuit of personal growth. The concept of “pau” encourages individuals to set goals, work diligently towards achieving them, and embrace the transformative power of completing a task or reaching a milestone.

Understanding the multifaceted meaning of “pau” allows us to appreciate the cultural richness and depth of the Hawaiian language. It serves as a reminder that language is not just a means of communication but also a vehicle for preserving history, traditions, and values.

To learn more about the Hawaiian language and its cultural significance, visit


In the Hawaiian language, pau is a word with layered meaning. Its core definitions relate to ending, depletion, being out of something, and death. But pau also carries deeper cultural symbolism about life cycles and transitions.

Through examining the linguistic roles, cultural associations, and contextual usage of pau, we gain insight into Hawaiian perspectives on finality, loss, and closure. While signifying endings, pau also points to new beginnings born out of what came before. The word captures the cyclical nature of life in the islands. Pau—seemingly straightforward on the surface—contains multitudes in its implications about Hawaiian worldviews.

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