The Meaning of “Aloha”

Blog_AlohaThe word “aloha” is the most recognized of all Hawaiian words. Not only is it used virtually daily by local Hawai’i residents, the word is included in the vast majority of advertising, blogs, and informal social media communication relating to Hawai’i. Those of us who live in Hawai’i think it’s wonderful that “aloha” is used so pervasively. In its simplest use, it means “hello”, “welcome”, or “goodbye”. However it has a much richer meaning. The word conveys a warm feeling, evokes a sense of our island lifestyle, and is adaptable for use in a range of settings. But how did the word come about? Language experts believe that aloha was derived from the Proto-Polynesian root qarofa* and is related to similar words in other Polynesian languages, including aroha in the language of the New Zealand Maori and alofa in the Samoan language. Although these similar words have essentially the same meaning, the word aloha has achieved worldwide familiarity and usage. Most consider the song Aloha ‘Oe, written by the Hawaiian Queen, Lili’uokalani, as the most famous of all Hawaiian melodies and certainly expanded familiarity of the word. There are variations in the use of the word, such as “aloha kakahiaka”, meaning “good morning”. In addition to its most popular use as a salutation or when bidding someone goodbye, the word is frequently used to describe the qualities of love, respect, and hospitality, such as “Malia has a lot of aloha for the guests on her tour bus”. The Aloha Spirit is recognized as a major theme in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch motion picture, set on Kauai. Frequent descriptions refer to “alo” as meaning “face” or “share” and “ha” as “breath of life” or “essence of life”. You’re welcome to use “aloha” now! With this small bit of background you’re now ready to starting using the word yourself. For starters, try including it in conversations or when welcoming visitors: “I have a lot of aloha for the Hawaiian lifestyle” or “Aloha! Welcome to my home.” Simply saying the word conveys a sense of comfort, peace, and warmth. Aloha!
*Biggs, Bruce, 1979. Proto-Polynesian World List II. Working Papers in Anthropology, Archaeology, linguistics, and Maori Studies No. 53. Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland

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