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The Hawaiian language is full of beautiful and meaningful words that give us a window into Hawaiian culture. One such word that you may have heard before is “keiki.” If you’ve ever wondered what exactly keiki means, you’ve come to the right place!

In short, keiki is a Hawaiian word meaning “child” or “children.” However, there’s a bit more nuance and background to this term than just a simple definition.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the origins, meanings, and uses of the Hawaiian word keiki. We’ll look at how it’s used in Hawaiian culture, example sentences, and phrases with keiki. By the end, you’ll have a deep understanding of what keiki means in the Hawaiian language.

The Origins and Literal Meaning of Keiki

The Literal Definition of Keiki

Keiki is a Hawaiian word that holds a special significance in the culture and language of the Hawaiian people. In its simplest form, keiki translates to “child” or “children” in English. However, this translation barely scratches the surface of the deeper meaning and cultural context that keiki carries within the Hawaiian community.

The Hawaiian language is rich in nuances and layers of meaning, and keiki is no exception. It encompasses not only the literal interpretation of a young person but also conveys a sense of reverence, love, and protection towards children. It represents the wisdom and responsibility that comes with nurturing the next generation, making it a cherished term among Hawaiians.

Etymology and Origins

The etymology of the word keiki can be traced back to the Polynesian language family, which includes Hawaiian, Tahitian, and Maori. In these cultures, the word “keiki” or its variations are commonly used to refer to children. This indicates a shared linguistic root and a cultural connection among these Pacific island communities.

In Hawaiian culture, children are seen as a precious gift from the gods, and the term keiki reflects this belief. The word carries a sense of reverence and respect for the innocence and potential that children possess. It symbolizes the interconnectedness between generations and emphasizes the importance of nurturing and protecting the young ones.

Understanding the origins and literal meaning of keiki provides a glimpse into the profound significance that children hold in Hawaiian culture. It reminds us of the responsibility we have to care for and support the next generation, ensuring a thriving and sustainable future for all.

How Keiki Is Used in the Hawaiian Language

The word “keiki” holds special significance in the Hawaiian language, with multiple meanings and uses. Let’s explore how this term is used in different contexts within Hawaiian culture.

To Refer to Biological Children

In Hawaiian, “keiki” is commonly used to refer to one’s biological children. It is a term of endearment and reflects the deep love and connection between parents and their offspring. When Hawaiians talk about their keiki, they often do so with a sense of pride and joy. It’s a beautiful way of acknowledging the preciousness and importance of family in Hawaiian culture.

As a General Term for Children

Beyond its specific meaning of biological children, “keiki” is also used as a general term for children in Hawaiian. Whether it’s referring to someone else’s child or a group of children, the word “keiki” encompasses the younger generation as a whole. This inclusive usage reflects the value Hawaiians place on community, where everyone is considered part of a larger ohana (family).

In Names and Nicknames

Another fascinating aspect of the word “keiki” is its presence in names and nicknames. In Hawaiian culture, it is common for individuals to be given names that incorporate “keiki” as a tribute to the importance of children in society. For example, you may come across names like Keikilani (heavenly child) or Keikiali’i (chiefly child), which carry a deep cultural significance.

Additionally, Hawaiians often use “keiki” as a term of endearment in nicknames. Just as people may affectionately refer to someone as “buddy” or “sweetie,” Hawaiians might use “keiki” to express fondness for a friend or loved one. It’s a charming way of acknowledging the childlike innocence and playfulness that resides within all of us.

Understanding the various uses of “keiki” in the Hawaiian language gives us insight into the rich cultural traditions and values of the Hawaiian people. It serves as a reminder of the importance placed on family, community, and the enduring spirit of childhood.

Keiki in Hawaiian Culture

The word “keiki” holds great significance in Hawaiian culture. In the Hawaiian language, “keiki” means “child” or “children.” However, its meaning goes beyond just a simple translation. It encompasses the deep-rooted values and traditions that revolve around children in Hawaiian society.

The Cultural Significance of Children

In Hawaiian culture, children are seen as a blessing and a source of joy. They are considered the future and are highly valued within the community. The birth of a child is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is seen as a time of renewal and hope. The presence of children is believed to bring happiness, prosperity, and a sense of continuity to the Hawaiian people.

Children are also seen as a connection to the ancestors and the spiritual realm. They are believed to carry the mana (spiritual power) of their ancestors and are seen as a bridge between the past, present, and future. This belief further strengthens the cultural significance of children in Hawaiian society.

Keiki and the ‘Ohana Structure

In Hawaiian culture, the concept of ‘ohana (extended family) is highly valued. The ‘ohana structure plays a crucial role in raising and nurturing keiki. Children are not only cared for by their parents but also by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. This collective approach to child-rearing ensures that children receive love, guidance, and support from multiple generations.

Within the ‘ohana, children are taught important cultural values, traditions, and skills. They learn about the land, the sea, and their ancestral heritage. The ‘ohana structure also emphasizes the importance of respect, harmony, and cooperation within the family unit, which extends to the wider community.

Traditional Practices with Keiki

Hawaiian culture has several traditional practices that involve keiki. One such practice is hula, a traditional dance form that is often taught to children from a young age. Hula helps children develop a connection to their Hawaiian roots, as well as fostering discipline, grace, and storytelling skills.

Another traditional practice is the art of lei-making. Keiki are often involved in creating beautiful flower lei, which are used for various celebrations and ceremonies. This practice not only connects children with nature but also instills a sense of craftsmanship and appreciation for the beauty of Hawaiian flora.

Examples of Keiki Usage in Sentences

Simple Sentences

1. I saw a group of keiki playing at the beach.

2. The park is a popular spot for families with keiki.

3. The school organized a special event for the keiki.

4. She loves spending time with her keiki and taking them to the park.

5. The local community center offers various activities for keiki of all ages.

Phrases with Keiki

1. Take care of your keiki. They are the future.

2. It’s important to create a safe environment for keiki to grow and learn.

3. The keiki are excited for the upcoming school trip.

4. Let’s organize a keiki-friendly event for the community.

5. The parents gathered to discuss ways to support the keiki in their neighborhood.

These examples showcase the versatile usage of the word “keiki” in sentences. In Hawaiian, “keiki” refers to children or offspring. It is commonly used to describe young ones in a loving and caring context. It can be used in simple sentences to indicate the presence or activities of children, as well as in phrases that emphasize the importance of nurturing and supporting the next generation.

For more information about Hawaiian language and culture, you can visit, a website dedicated to providing resources and insights into the Hawaiian culture.

Similarity to Other Polynesian Languages

Hawaiian, as a Polynesian language, shares many similarities with other languages in the Polynesian language family. These languages are spoken in various countries across the Pacific, including Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Maori in New Zealand. While each language has its unique characteristics and nuances, they all stem from a common ancestral language, known as Proto-Polynesian.

Proto-Polynesian was spoken thousands of years ago by the Polynesians as they migrated throughout the Pacific. Over time, as these communities settled in different islands, their languages evolved and developed distinct features. However, the underlying structure and vocabulary remain remarkably similar, allowing for some level of mutual intelligibility between speakers of different Polynesian languages.

Shared Vocabulary

One of the most apparent similarities between Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages is the shared vocabulary. Many words in Hawaiian have cognates, or similar words, in other Polynesian languages. For example, the word “keiki” in Hawaiian, which means “child,” has similar equivalents in other Polynesian languages, such as “tama” in Samoan, “tama” in Tongan, and “tama” in Maori.

This shared vocabulary is a testament to the deep connection and common origins of these languages. It highlights the cultural and linguistic ties that exist among the Polynesian people, despite being spread across vast distances.

Grammatical Structure

Beyond vocabulary, Hawaiian also shares similarities in its grammatical structure with other Polynesian languages. These languages typically follow a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order, where the subject of the sentence comes first, followed by the verb and then the object. For example, in Hawaiian, the sentence “I am eating an apple” would be structured as “Ke ‘ai au i kekahi ‘ōpio.”

This consistent grammatical structure across Polynesian languages makes it easier for speakers of one language to learn and understand another. It also provides a fascinating insight into the linguistic patterns that have persisted over time.

Further Exploration

If you’re interested in learning more about the similarities between Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages, there are several resources available online. The Polynesian Languages website provides detailed information about the linguistic features and connections among Polynesian languages. Additionally, you can explore language courses and textbooks that specifically focus on Polynesian languages, offering a deeper dive into their shared heritage and linguistic intricacies.


In Hawaiian culture, the term keiki carries deep meaning and symbolism. Children are seen as the future generations and a vital part of the ‘ohana structure.

Understanding words like keiki gives us insight into the Hawaiian worldview and helps honor this beautiful language. Next time you hear keiki, you’ll know exactly what it means – a child, the pride and joy of any ‘ohana.

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