Hawaiian names - For guys and girls

Do you love the Hawaiian culture and language as much as we do? Then you will be interested in this overview of Hawaiian first names 🙂

Hawaiian first names are not only popular among Hawaiian families but they also find great appeal among the rest of Hawaii's residents as well as those in the United States.

Authentic Hawaiian names are not gender specific. The literal meaning is usually quite clear but there are often hidden symbolic meanings known only to the family. Native Hawaiians considered a first name to be the property of the bearer, who held the power to help or harm the owner of the name. Just as in Hawaiian poetry, allusions were considered to be more beautiful than clear statements. Coolness and rain symbolize happiness in a warm climate. Fog is a symbol of romance. "Lei" means child, because a beloved child is carried on the shoulders of the parents like the flower necklace Lei. Modern parents tend to literally call a child that, as in Keikilani or Kamalani, where both "Keiki" and "Kama" mean "child".

Traditional naming

Native Hawaiians created a new first name for each newborn baby, paying careful attention to the meaning. Names often revealed themselves in dreams or visions. Children could be named after relatives but not after members of other families. Hawaii was a society that valued hierarchies and names had to match a family's social status and worshipped gods. Names beginning with Keli'i- (the chief) or ending with -lani (sky) was reserved for chiefs. The lowest social class, kauwā, was allowed to choose only names from nature.

Events that occurred during the time of birth were often incorporated into the naming. A well-known example is Queen Lili'uokalani, whose name means "burning pain of heaven." She was called Lili'u ("burning") Kamaka'eha ("the painful eye") during her childhood, a name thought up by her great-aunt Kīnaʻu, who suffered from eye pain.

One person could have several names , formal and informal, and names were changed if they seemed harmful. When a child fell ill, black magic was often suspected. Parents then changed their child's name to something repulsive to protect the child, such as Pupuka ("ugly") or Kūkae ("excrement"). Such names did not lead to banishment between Hawaiians but visitors and tourists were shocked.

Marriage certificates of the 19th century contain many names like that such as Kama'i ("the disease"), Ka'aihue ("the thief"), Kapela ("the dirt") or Waiwai'ole ("worthless").
Despite this tradition, the majority of Hawaiian first names have pleasant or descriptive meanings. According to records, the most popular first names of the 19th century were Kalua ("the second child, companion"), Keawe ( "the beach"), Kamaka ("the eye"), Keaka ("the shadow"), Kealoha ("love"), ʻŌpūnui ("big belly", a sign of a high social class) and Māhoe ("twin"). What is particularly striking about these names is their diversity. A unique name was the rule, not the exception. The ten most popular first names covered only four percent of the population.

Changes due to western culture

Surnames did not exist in original Hawaii. At the beginning of Western influence by missionaries, some Hawaiians adopted a Christian first name and kept their Hawaiian name as a surname. In 1860, Kamehameha IV signed a law that served the regulation of names. From now on, Hawaiians had to use their father's name as a surname and all future children had to be given a Christian or English first name. Hawaiian names became middle names. This law was not revoked until 1967.

After Hawaii's annexation to the United States, knowledge of the Hawaiian language declined. Grandparents were allowed to give traditional names to the next two generations but a baby born in the 2000s was likely to have no relatives left whose native language was Hawaiian . First names are instead inspired by famous personalities, mythology and popular songs. Nevertheless, names are often influenced by direct ancestors and other family members.

The phonetic repetition of Western names such as Kimo (Jim) or Lāhela (Rachel) created completely new names. The film industry produces pseudo-Hawaiian names in movies like "Aloma, the Daughter of the South Seas" (1926) or "Lilo & Stitch" (2002).
In many Hawaiian words, the 'okina (a voiceless, glottal plosive) and the kahakō (a mark to emphasize a vowel) are important to the meaning of a word. These are often omitted in English texts or added where they do not belong. Hawaiian vowels should be pronounced clearly.

Popular Hawaiian first names and their meanings

Every year, more expecting parents are choosing to give their offspring Hawaiian or Hawaiian-inspired first names. Hawaiian names are generally short and melodic, making them ideal for people looking for a simple yet beautiful name for their children. Hawaiian names are also wonderful for double names, middle names and pet names.

The name Malia, for example, has grown in popularity in recent years because that is the first name of one of Barack Obama's two daughters. Malia means "calm waters" and is the Hawaiian version of the name Maria. This name for girls reached the peak of its popularity in 2012 and is still very popular today, as are its variants Malea, Maylea and Malie.

Kai means "the sea" and remains one of the most popular Hawaiian boy names. The boy's name Keanu (or Keano), which means "the cool breeze" has increased greatly in popularity due to the actor Keanu Reeves. A not-so-common boy's name is Keoni, meaning "God is kind." The similar sounding girl's name Kiana or Keana, meaning "Goddess of the Moon", has increased in popularity in recent years; this name is the Hawaiian variant of the girl's name Diana.

More popular Hawaiian baby names

2013 and 2014 included the following girls' names and boys' names:

  • Alani - girl's name, meaning: "orange tree" or "orange fruit".
  • Anela - usually a girl's name, meaning: "angel".
  • Kalea - girl's name, meaning: "bright" or "joy".
  • Lani (variant: Lanea) - girl's name, meaning: "sky".
  • Leilani - girl's name, meaning: "celestial child" or "celestial flowers".
  • Lio - boy's name, meaning: "lion".
  • Luana - girl's name, meaning: "happy".
  • Malu - unisex name, meaning: "protection" or "peace".
  • Moana - girl's name, meaning: "ocean".
  • Nalani - girl's name, meaning: "calm sky".
  • Neyla - girl's name, meaning: "heaven".
  • Noelani - girl's name, meaning: "mist of heaven".
Big Island
All Hawaii Islands
Overview of all islands & background info