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The Hawaiian language is full of beautiful and poetic words that often have deeper cultural meanings. If you’ve heard the term “ewa” used in Hawaii, you may have wondered what it signifies.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Ewa means “crooked” or “ill-fitting” in Hawaiian. It refers to the direction of Ewa Beach on Oahu, which lies in a crooked coastline on the leeward side of the island.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various meanings behind “ewa” in Hawaiian terminology, looking at how it relates to directions, body parts, and personality traits on the islands. We’ll also examine how Ewa came to refer to a region on Oahu and the history behind this coastal area.

By the end of this in-depth article, you’ll have a full understanding of the nuanced Hawaiian meaning of the term “ewa” in its many contextual uses.

The Meaning of Ewa as a Direction

When it comes to Hawaiian geography, the word “ewa” holds significant meaning as a directional term. In Hawaiian, “ewa” refers to the direction west. It is commonly used to indicate the position or movement towards the west side of the islands.

Refers to the Direction West

The term “ewa” is often used in navigation and giving directions in Hawaii. For example, if you were to ask for directions to a certain location, you might be told to go “ewa” or “towards ewa” to indicate that you need to head west. This usage of “ewa” helps locals and visitors alike navigate the island’s roads and landmarks.

The Opposite of Diamond Head or Koko Head

One way to remember the meaning of “ewa” is by understanding its relationship to other well-known landmarks in Hawaii. Diamond Head and Koko Head, two prominent volcanic cones on the island of Oahu, are often used as reference points. If you are facing Diamond Head or Koko Head, “ewa” would be the opposite direction, or towards the west.

Indicates the Leeward Side of the Islands

Another important aspect of “ewa” is that it often refers to the leeward side of the islands. The Hawaiian Islands have a prevailing trade wind pattern, with the northeast trade winds blowing from the east. As a result, the west side of the islands is typically drier and less windy compared to the windward side. So, when someone mentions going “ewa,” they might be referring to the more sheltered and calmer side of the island.

Ewa as a Body Part

Means Crooked, Ill-Fitting, or Out of Alignment

In Hawaiian, the term “ewa” is used to describe something that is crooked, ill-fitting, or out of alignment. This can be applied to various body parts, indicating a lack of symmetry or balance. It is interesting to note that the Hawaiian language often uses descriptive words to convey meanings, providing a deeper understanding of the concept being described.

Used to Describe Crooked Teeth or Misaligned Bones

When it comes to the body, “ewa” can be used to describe physical features such as crooked teeth or misaligned bones. For example, if someone has teeth that are not aligned properly, they may be described as having “niho ewa” or “crooked teeth.” Similarly, if someone has a bone that is out of alignment, it may be referred to as “iwi ewa” or “misaligned bone.”

Contrasts with Pokole Meaning Short or Well-Fitting

In contrast to “ewa,” the Hawaiian term “pokole” is used to describe something that is short or well-fitting. This term can also be applied to body parts, indicating a sense of balance and alignment. For example, if someone has well-aligned teeth, they may be described as having “niho pokole” or “well-fitting teeth.” Similarly, if someone has bones that are in proper alignment, they may be referred to as having “iwi pokole” or “well-aligned bones.”

Understanding the meaning of “ewa” and its opposite, “pokole,” can provide valuable insights into the Hawaiian language and culture. These descriptive terms not only convey physical attributes but also reflect the importance of balance and symmetry in the Hawaiian worldview.

Ewa as a Personality Trait

Ewa is not just a place name in Hawaii, but it is also a personality trait that is often used to describe someone’s behavior or character. In Hawaiian culture, Ewa refers to someone who is seen as devious, dishonest, or mischievous. It is a term that carries a negative connotation and is used to describe individuals who engage in deceitful or cunning behavior.

Refers to Someone Seen as Devious, Dishonest or Mischievous

When someone is described as Ewa, it means that they are perceived as being sly or cunning in their actions. This can include dishonesty, manipulation, or engaging in mischievous behavior. It is important to note that this term is not used lightly and is reserved for individuals who consistently exhibit these negative traits.

Often Used in Hawaiian Phrases and Idioms

The term Ewa is not only used to describe individuals, but it is also incorporated into Hawaiian phrases and idioms. One example is the phrase “Ewa ka manao,” which translates to “devious or cunning thoughts.” This phrase is used to warn others about someone’s hidden agenda or ulterior motives.

It is fascinating how different cultures have unique ways of describing certain personality traits, and Ewa is a perfect example of how the Hawaiian language captures the essence of someone’s character.

Contrasts with Pololei Meaning Honest, Upright or Moral

In contrast to Ewa, another term commonly used in Hawaiian culture is “Pololei,” which means honest, upright, or moral. Pololei is the exact opposite of Ewa and describes individuals who are known for their integrity, honesty, and adherence to moral principles.

Understanding the meaning of Ewa and its contrasting term Pololei provides us with insights into the values and beliefs of the Hawaiian people. It reminds us of the importance of honesty and integrity in building relationships and fostering trust within a community.

The History of the Ewa District on Oahu

The Ewa District, located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, has a rich and fascinating history. From its origins as a Hawaiian settlement to its role in the sugar cane industry, Ewa has played a significant part in shaping the cultural and economic landscape of the region.

Named After Its Location West of Honolulu

The name “Ewa” itself holds significance as it is derived from the Hawaiian word for “crooked.” This name was given to the district due to its location west of Honolulu, following the curve of the coastline. Ewa is situated on the southwestern side of Oahu and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Waianae Range on the other. Its unique geographical location has contributed to its historical importance and development over the years.

Home to Ancient Fishponds and Hawaiian Settlements

Prior to European contact, the Ewa District was home to ancient fishponds, known as loko iʻa, which were used by Native Hawaiians for aquaculture. These fishponds were a vital source of sustenance and played a crucial role in the local economy. In addition to the fishponds, Ewa was also home to several Hawaiian settlements, evidence of which can still be found in the form of archaeological sites and artifacts.

Site of Early Sugar Cane Cultivation and Plantations

In the mid-19th century, Ewa became a center for sugar cane cultivation and plantations. The fertile lands and abundant water supply in the district made it an ideal location for growing sugar cane, which became a major industry in Hawaii. Plantations were established in Ewa, attracting immigrant workers from different parts of the world, such as China, Japan, Portugal, and the Philippines. The impact of this industry on Ewa’s development and the multicultural heritage of the area is still evident today.

The history of the Ewa District on Oahu is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Hawaiian people, as well as the influence of various cultures that have contributed to the growth and development of the region. Exploring the rich history of Ewa provides a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage and economic significance of this district in Hawaii.


In Hawaiian culture, directions, body parts, and personality traits are intricately linked with deeper symbolism. The complex meaning behind the term “ewa” provides a fascinating glimpse into these connections.

While the leeward area of Ewa may have gotten its name from its geographical location, the name also evokes winding coastlines and crooked moral character. When studying Hawaiian words, remember that their meanings often extend far beyond simple translation.

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