Guide to Local Words and Phrases

Although English is the primary language of the islands, when you visit Maui you will undoubtedly hear words, phrases, and songs in the beautiful, flowing Hawaiian language. You might also hear some Hawaiian Pidgin, a multi-cultural slang that developed during Hawaii’s plantation era with a meaning all its own. Pidgin is not an official language (although it certainly can sound foreign at times), but it is commonly spoken among locals and is an interesting slice of Maui culture.

Here are just a few of the most common Maui sayings you might hear, both Hawaiian and Pidgin:


  • a hui hou – ‘til we meet again, a polite way to say goodbye
  • aloha – used for hello and goodbye; extending love, affection, sympathy
  • kapu – forbidden, sacred, prohibited, no trespassing
  • kupuna – grandparent, ancestor, respected elder
  • keiki – child or children (can be singular or plural)
  • lanai – porch, balcony, patio
  • mahalo – thank you; mahalo nui loa – thank you very much
  • ‘ohana – family
  • ‘ono – delicious
  • pau – finished, all done; pau hana – finished with work; after work


  • auntie, uncle – respectful terms when referring to someone of the older generation
  • broke da mouth – extremely delicious
  • chicken skin – goose bumps
  • da kine – a general catch-all phrase that can mean pretty much anything!
  • grinds – good food
  • howzit – short for “How’s it going?” or “How are you?”
  • kau kau — food
  • no need – polite for “That’s not necessary” or “There’s no need for that”
  • stink eye – give someone a dirty look
  • talk story – friendly chatting

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