Hawaiian Names for the New Baby

My nephew is due to be born any day now, and my niece (1 1/2 years old!) is adorable, I'd like to introduce a little bit about Hawaiian names and put up a few suggestions for a Hawaiian name if you or someone you know is expecting. I don't know what my nephew will be named when he is born (I'm not sure if his parents are set on any ideas), but here are some ideas for his parents and others who are looking for a beautiful, cultural name for their child.

In Hawaiian culture, there are several different types of names. Names weren't chosen simply because they sounded great, they were chosen because of their specific meaning or to commemorate an event or relative. There are several different types of names:

  • inoa po - a name received in a dream. It was believed that if a relative received a name in a dream and didn't give the child that name, then the child would be cursed
  • inoa ho'ailona - a name received in the form of a natural phenomenon or a mystic sign
  • inoa 'ulaleo - a name heard
  • inoa ho'omanao - a name for an event or person
  • inoa kupuna - a name from an ancestor
  • inoa ewe - a name based on traits or personality

In Hawaiian culture, the longer the name, the more power it has. This is part of the reason why many people in Hawai'i have long Hawaiian names (though they may often go by a shorter version of their name for day-to-day activities). But nowadays shorter Hawaiian names are quite common as well and have become a point of pride and reflection for individuals upon his/her Hawaiian heritage.

Most Hawaiian names are unisex, though most are given to one gender more often than the other gender. For those in Hawai'i, it might be better to stick with the gender norms while those on the mainland could have more choice, particularly if the child will be the only one with a Hawaiian name in a 100 mile radius. I found two websites that have an extensive listing of Hawaiian names. One includes the 'okina, or glottal stop, to ensure proper spelling of the name, while the other doesn't. This second one also includes names that have letters that aren't part of the Hawaiian alphabet. I don't particularly like those names because they aren't truly Hawaiian names, but that's just my opinion.

If there isn't a name on the list that strieks the fancy, then tnother technique that's really popular is to name a child a Hawaiian adjective. This not only ensures that the child's name has a great meaning, but that he/she has a great name as well. Here are some examples below:

  • Hau'oli - happy
  • Kaulana - famous
  • Ikaika - strong
  • 'Alohi - bright
  • Koa - brave
  • 'Alapa - athletic
  • Pono - righteous
  • Kilakila - majestic
  • Kupono - honest

Similar to this is to name children after things in nature, like a star (Hoku) or the rain (ua) or a flower (pua) or a rainbow (anueanue). Here's a link to a good online Hawaiian dictionary. Also by putting together an adjective with a noun (like hokukilakila for "majestic star"), a creative, original yet meaningful name could be given the newborn.

There are also Hawaiian versions of English names. Most of these names are very uncommon and only serve the purpose of knowing a cool alternative to our own name. However, there are a few, such as Mikala (Michael), Kamuela (Samuel), Kimo (James) and Kawika (David) that are given to children quite frequently.

Why Hawai'i is Cool Enough for a Blog

During my freshman year of college the resident adviser of my floor started a door-decorating contest. The theme was “I love ___”.  With myself from Hawaii and my roommate from Tennessee, we went with “Home is Where the Heart Is” for our door theme and we decorated with pictures from our respective home states.  We won the contest, and our prize: a metal picture frame for each of us with the word ‘family’ around the border.

I still have that picture frame with a picture of my family inside.  It’s not the best picture, taken at Sam Choy’s Restaurant with the boat in the background and two unknown kids in the boat looking at the camera.  My attire also makes me look fat.  But it’s the best I got.

I am an angel, as I was born and raised in heaven.  By heaven, I mean the Hawaiian Islands, and yes, they are heaven.  They are as beautiful and as sunny as television makes them out to be.  We are the Aloha State for a reason and our legislature said so in 1959.  Sixty-five degrees is considered cold, spam is considered delicious and an aloha shirt is considered business attire.  Heaven is Hawaii, and I honestly believe that one of the biggest steps toward world peace is to have the next G8 meeting at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa located within feet of Waikiki Beach.  With mai tais in hand and waves crashing upon the shore, war can only seem like a ridiculous idea.

Joking aside (but not the bias), Hawaii is God’s gift to Mother Earth.  We are the most isolated populated group of islands on the planet, almost 4000 miles from Japan.  That is about an eight hour plane ride, about the same from the east coast of the United States to London.  We were also the last piece of land to be discovered and documented by Western explorers, first discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778.  We also have the distinct honor of murdering Captain James Cook.  He returned to the islands during the time of war after first arriving during the time of peace, in which we realized that the captain is no god at all and killed him.  I said Hawaii was heaven.  I did not say Hawaii was perfect.

While we do not have perfection, we also do not have billboards, rabies, snakes and seagulls.  Billboards and snakes are illegal.  Snakes eat birds and we don’t want what happened to our avian population like what happened to Guam’s population as a result of the introduction of the brown tree snake.  Billboards are just ugly.  I know we don’t have rabies because we don’t have any raccoons but I don’t have any idea as to why we don’t have seagulls.  And while we are on animals, gerbils, hamsters, hedgehogs, foxes and porcupines are all prohibited from entering the state.

I now live in St. Louis, Missouri with its oppressively hot summers and unbearably cold winters. People don't understand why I would leave heaven to come to, well, here. Very few people from Hawai'i do make the trek past the west coast. Because of the rarity of my presence in the middle of the country, most people I meet don't know very much about Hawaiiana, or any and all things Hawaiian. I'm taking it upon myself not only to introduce and explain Hawaiiana, but to help others back in Hawai'i considering to come up for the mainland either for vacation, college, or good.

It's not heaven, but the mainland isn't all that scary and foreign and horrible a place. There's a lot both sides of the Pacific can learn from each other.