Glossary of Hawaiian and other Non-English Terms

A framed icon of Who, What, When, Where

Asterisk [*] indicates Hawaiian vocabulary




WINNER for Fiction-Adventure -Drama 

Finalist for Mystery Crime and Cover Design-Fiction (6x9)

The following definitions reflect meanings used within Jeanne's books. Many Hawaiian words have multiple spellings and/or meanings [with or without diacritical marks]. Names, may have ambiguous, layered, or hidden meanings. Words in bold text are defined within this glossary. Sourcing a word as "Chinese" indicates it may be the same in both Mandarin and  and Yue dialects.

  Adobo. Dressing, sauce. [Spanish]  A Filipino process of cooking, featuring protein or vegetables marinated in a vinegar-and-garlic based sauce, browned in oil, simmered in the marinade. The dish is often served with steamed white rice.

  Aficionado. Enthusiast. [Spanish]  Person who is a knowledgeable admirer of a subject or activity.
* Ali`i. Chief, ruler, officer, aristocrat, commander.
* Aloha. Love, affection, compassion, loved one. Traditional term for greeting and farewell, expressing love, friendship and mercy.
* Aloha `Oe. May you be loved. Title of the beloved song written by Queen Lili`uokalani.
* Auwē. Alas, Too bad, or Oh dear.

  Boat Day. Between the 1920s and the late 1940s [except during World War II, the arrival of ocean liners at Aloha Tower was a major event in Honolulu. In addition to being a communal celebration, the ships and the people they carried contributed greatly to the local economy. Passengers were greeted with leis and performances by hula dancers and the Royal Hawaiian Band. Boys and young men often dove into the waters of the harbor for coins thrown overboard by the tourists.​
  Cartouche. Cartridge. [French]. Egyptian name hieroglyphs, usually royal, shown in oval rope design frame. Often signify named king’s rule and all of creation encircled by the sun. This modern term was coined by Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers during the 1798-1801 C.E. Egyptian campaign.

  Char siu bao. Chāshāobāo [Hanyu Pinyin Romanization of Mandarin Dialect of Chinese]. Steamed buns stuffed with barbecued pork.
Named mea `ono pua`a when introduced to Hawai`i [mea `ono, pastry or cake plus pua`a, pork]. Today shortened to manapua.
  Cheongsam. Qípáo [Pinyin]. Tight-fitting Chinese dress with a slit skirt and mandarin collar. Originated in the Qing Dynasty [1644–1911]. A modern version emerged in Shànghăi in the 1920s.

  Chiang Kai Shek. Official name, Chiang Chieh-shih [Wade-Giles Romanization of Chinese dialects] or Jiǎng Jièshí [Hanyu Pinyin]. Chinese general and political leader [1887–1975]. Chief of Staff for Dr. Sūn Yat-Sen [Sūn Yìxiān, Pinyin], co-founder of the Chinese Nationalist Party [the Guómíndăng] and first provisional president of the Republic of China [1912-1949]. The General established the army of the Nationalist Party and when Dr. Sūn died in 1925, he became Chairman of the Guómíndăng and Commander-in-chief of the Army. His political success was partially attributed to his marriage to a sister of Dr. Sūn’s widow.  As self-declared Generalissimo, his initial focus was fighting Chinese war lords and communists, as well as the Japanese Imperial Army after their 1931 invasion of Manchuria following the Mukden Incident. Once the country was relatively unified, he concentrated on modernizing the government. Following the end of World War II in 1945, civil war quickly resumed. By 1948 the General had lost most of the Chinese mainland to Mao Zedong [Mao Tse-Tung, Wade-Giles] Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1949 Mao established the People’s Republic of China and Jiǎng Jièshí was forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan.

  Cloisonné. Partitioned; enclosed. [French] Artistic work featuring enamel, glass, and/or gemstones within cellular frameworks of flattened gold, silver, brass, copper or other metal wire that has been soldered or welded.
​​​ Dim sum. Diănxīn [Pinyin]. Touch the heart. [Chinese] Pastry, light refreshment, bite-sized foods. Often dumplings filled with vegetables, meat or seafood that is usually steamed or fried. Originating in Guǎngdōng province tea houses, it was traditionally served like appetizers, as a snack, or before a larger meal; now served as a complete meal, especially as a brunch.​
* E komo mai. Welcome; enter and be refreshed. A traditional Hawaiian greeting.
  Entourage. From entourer, to surround  [French]. The companions of or people surrounding one who is usually important.
  Entrée. [French]  A course preceding or between main courses. In the U.S., it is the main course of a meal.
   Faux. Imitation, artificial, false, fake. [French]​

  Gourmand. [From French] One who enjoys good food excessively.
  Gourmet. [From French] A connoisseur of good food and wine, whose degree of knowledge often matches their refined palette.
  Guǎngdōng. Expanse East. [Chinese] A province of the People’s Republic of China [PRC] located on the South China Sea coast. Once known as Canton or Kwangtung in English.

  Guangzhou. Capital of Guǎngdōng province. It is the third largest city in the PRC.
   Guómíndăng. [Pinyin] or Kuomintang [Wade-Giles]. Chinese Nationalist Party. The party was founded in 1911 by Song Jiaoren and Dr. Sūn Yat-Sen [Wade-Giles, or Sūn Yixian, Pinyin] Dr. Sūn [1912-1949] became the first provisional President of the Republic of China which was established after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty [1644-1912]. After the death of Dr. Sūn in 1925, leadership of the party passed to General Jiǎng Jièshí [Chiang Kai-Shek, Wade-Giles]. Following defeat of the Japanese in World War II, civil war between the factions escalated. In 1949 Mao Zedong (Chairman and military leader of the Chinese Communist Party) was victorious. With the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, General Jiǎng Jièshí retreated to Taiwan, where the Guómíndăng remained the ruling political party of the Republic of China for many decades.​

Ha gao. [Yue dialect of Chinese]. Har gow [Anglicized]. Xiā jiǎo [Pinyin]. Shrimp dumplings.
* Ha`ikū. To speak abruptly; a sharp break. A land section in Kāne`ohe town on the island of O`ahu containing a popular garden by that name.
* Hānai. Foster or adopted child. Extended or adopted family members.
* Haole. Foreigner, of foreign origin. Current usage, an American, Englishman, and/or Caucasian.
   Haori. [Japanese] A kimono style jacket with open front and straight sleeves.
* Hawai`i. Fiftieth state of the United States of America; name of the largest Hawaiian island. The Kingdom of Hawai`i was established by Kamehameha I between 1795 and 1810. The Kingdom was overthrown between 1893 and 1894, after which it was replaced by the short-lived Republic of Hawai`i. Established in 1898, the Territory of Hawai`i became a state in 1959.
   Hongkou. A northern district of the city of Shanghai, PRC.
* Honolulu. Protected Bay. Located on the island of O`ahu, it is the largest city in and capital of the state of Hawai`i.
* Ho’olaule`a. Celebration, festival, large party.
   Hors d'oeuvres. Outside of work. [French] Originally referring to food partaken after working hours, it now refers to appetizers served before a meal, usually with wine or cocktails.
   Huay. Also known as kongsi [Wade-Giles] and gōngsī [Pinyin]. Social and economic support groups comprised of members from the same district, clan and/or language group. See also hui.
* Hui. Club, association, or society. Similar to Chinese huay.
* Hula. Traditional dance of Hawai`i.​​
* `Iolani, Palace. Royal hawk. Home of the monarchy of the Kingdom of Hawai`i. Originally named Hale Ali`i, [House of Royalty], it was built in 1845 for King Kamehameha III [1813-1854]. It was renamed by King Kamehameha V [1830-1872] in 1863 in honor of his deceased brother, King Kamehameha IV [1934-1863].
* Iwilei. Collar bone; a unit of measurement. A road in west O`ahu.
   Jǐnán. South of the Ji waters. Capital of Shāndōng province in the eastern part of the PRC.​
* Kahakō. Macron. A diacritical mark [a dash] placed over a vowel to extend pronunciation of the vowel’s sound.
* Kailua. Two seas. Bay, beach and town on the northeast end of the Windward side of O`ahu.
* Kaimukī. The oven of the kī [ti plant, Scientific name, Cordyline terminalis] A neighborhood in east Honolulu.
* Ka`iulani, Princess. The royal or sacred one. A niece of Queen Lili`uokalani, she was the last princess of Hawai`i. [1875-1899] Also the name of a Waikīkī hotel and upscale clothing line.
* Ka Leo. The voice. Ka Leo O Hawai`i, The Voice of Hawai`i, the student newspaper of the University of Hawai`i.
* Kalo. Taro. A staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet used to make poi. [Colocasia esculenta]
* Kālua. From [indicating a process] lua [pit]. To bake in an imu [underground oven ].
* Kamehameha. Hushed silence. Dynasty of Hawaiian Kings, founded by King Kamehameha the First [1758-1819] of the island of Hawai`i. After conquering the islands one at a time, he fully unified the kingdom of Hawai`i by 1810. He is noted for making alliances with European nations to ensure the independence and economic growth of his kingdom. Another hallmark of his reign was the unification of the legal system, including the Māmalahoe Kānāwai [Law of the Splintered Paddle], which provided human rights to non-combatants in wartime.
* Kāne`ohe. Man of Bamboo. Town in Windward O`ahu, west of Kailua.
* Kapa. Cloth made from bark of māmaki or wauke.
* Kapahulu. Worn out soil. Subdivision of the Kaimukī neighborhood of O`ahu.
* Kapi`olani. Rainbow, arch of heaven. Name of the last Hawaiian princess [1875-1899]. Neighborhood running through Waikīkī; a major boulevard and community college in urban Honolulu.
* Kauai. From the garden island. The fourth largest island in the Hawaiian island chain.
* Keiki. Child, offspring.
* Keiki hānai. Foster or adopted child.
  Ken, Kenning. Perceiving knowledge, idea or situation beyond one’s normal range of sight or view. [Chiefly Scottish; from Middle English kennen,  Old Norse kenna, and Old English, cennan].
* Keoni. Diminutive form of the name “John.”
* Kī. The ti plant [cordyline terminalis].
* Koa. Acacia tree. An endangered species known for its fine grained wood. [Acacia koa]
* Ko`olau. Windward. One of two volcanic mountain ranges that divide the island of O`ahu.
* Kūka`iau. Current appearing. A gulch, village, and ranch located on the island of Hawai`i.
* Kuomintang. See Guómíndăng.
* Kumu hula. Master teacher of hula.​
* Lānai. Porch, balcony.
* Lanikai. Community on the southern edge of Kailua in Windward O`ahu.
Labneh. Strained yoghurt and yoghurt cheese popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, varying in texture, flavorings and usages.
* Lei. Garland of flowers, leaves, shells, candy, or other decorations.
* Lili`u`okalani, Queen. Her name is sometimes translated as, scorching pain of the royal chiefess. Birth name, Lydia Lili`u Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamaka`eha; married name, Lydia K. Dominis; chosen royal name, Lili`u`okalani [1838-1917]. Only reigning queen and last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Author of numerous poems, chants, and lyrics, and the book Hawaii's Story By Hawai`i’s Queen. Also an accomplished musician and composer of the popular song Aloha `Oe [Farewell to Thee]. She may have been named in reference to her foster mother’s aunt suffering with eye pain at the time of the princess’s birth.

Loco moco. Popular Island breakfast entrée consisting of a hamburger patty topped with a sunny-side up fried egg served on a bed of steamed white rice and topped with brown gravy.
Lo mein. Lāomiàn [Pinyin]. Chinese dish of sliced vegetables and soft noodles in seasoned sauce, often with diced meat or shrimp.
* Lū`au. Kalo [taro] tops. Modern name for a Hawaiian feast.​​​
* Mahalo. Thank you. Often printed on public garbage cans to encourage respect for keeping the environment clean.
* Maile. Flowering dogbane tree shrub. Its fragrant leaves are used for making a long open lei. [Lyxia  oliviformis]
* Makiki. To peck; Type of volcanic stone used as a fishing weight or adze.  A neighborhood northeast of downtown Honolulu.
Malasada [Portuguese] A deep-fried doughnut.
* Māmaki Flowering nettle plan. [Pipturus albidus].
   Manapua Taken from mea `ono pua`a [mea `ono, pastry or cake plus pua`a, pork. See also Char siu bao.
Manchuria.  Historical name of region in Northeast Asia, sometimes defined as being wholly within China.
* Mānoa. Thick, solid, vast, deep. Valley, neighborhood northeast of downtown Honolulu. Locale of University of Hawai`i's main campus.
Mao Zedong. [Pinyin] Mao Tse-tung [Wade Giles]. Chinese anti-imperialist nationalist and Marxist revolutionary [1893-1976]. In 1921 he was one of fifty founding members of the Communist Party of China. Although nominally united with the republican government of Chiang Kai Shek during World War II, he became the Chairman of the Communist Party in 1945. He then pursued the successful revolution that led to his establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. As its chief architect, he is revered in the PRC as the father and elder statesman of the new nation of China, despite the failings of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
* Maui. Second largest Hawaiian Island, named for the demi-god Māui.
* Mauka. Inland, toward the mountain.
Mochi. Molded Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice paste.
Mukden. [Manchurian] Shěnyáng [Pinyin]. Capital of Liaoning province in southern Manchuria in the PRC. Site of the 1931 Liutiaohu Incident [also known as the Manchurian Incident], in which the Japanese Imperial Army fabricated an excuse for invading Manchuria, which they renamed Manchukuo [Mǎnzhōuguó, Pinyin] and occupied from 1932 until the end of World War II in 1945.
Mushu. Or mù xū [Pinyin]. Chinese dish of stir-fried vegetables and egg, often with meat or fish. Served with or wrapped in thin pancakes.
* Mu`umu`u. Cut short;maimed; or, amputated.  A dress adapted from the style of nineteenth-century Protestant Christian missionary women, often featuring short sleeves and no yoke.​
* Nu`uanu. Cool heights. Valley, stream and neighborhood north of downtown Honolulu.​
* O`ahu. The Gathering place. The third largest Hawaiian island; location of Honolulu, the state capital.
* `Okina. Glottal stop. A diacritical mark [`] used to indicate a break in sounding consonantal sounds, like that separating an interjection’s syllables, like “noh-noh.”
Origami. Paper folding. [Japanese] Disambiguation. Originating in the seventeenth century, the traditional Japanese form of sculpture is created by folding and sculpting flat pieces of paper.​
* Pā`ina. Ancient word for feast. Now used for a meal or dinner party.
* Pali. Cliff, craggy hill.
Petits Four Glacé. Small oven. [French] Bite-sized tea cakes covered with icing or glazing fondant.
* Pīkake. Peacock. An Asian jasmine shrub or vine in the evergreen olive family that produces fragrant white flowers [Jasminum sambac].
Plate Lunch. Popular Island meal with an Asian style protein often served on a bed of shredded cabbage. Accompanied by two scoops of white steamed rice and one scoop of macaroni salad, and sometimes pickled vegetables.
Plumeria. Flowering and fragrant tropical tree including the frangipani, a genus of flowering tree in the dogbane family. [Plumeria]
Provenance. The point of origin.  [from the French word provenir, to come from] The record of ownership for an antique or piece of art used to authenticate its nature, origin and history.
* Pūne`e. Sofa, couch, pew.
* Pūpū. Marine and land shell. Today it means an appetizer.
* Pu`u o Kaimukī. Hill of Kaimukī. Located in east Honolulu.
   Sans. Without. [Middle English and French]
Shànghăi. City at the mouth of the Yangtze River in the center of the coast of the PRC. Having the largest population of any city in China, or the world, it is classified as a province.
Shinai. Fencing stick. [Japanese] Practice sword used in Kendo, traditionally made of bamboo, now available in carbon.
Sichuan. Also Szechwan. Style of Chinese cuisine originating in Sichuan province in the southwestern part of the PRC.
 Sūn Yat-Sen. Sūn Yìxiān [Pinyin]. Original name Sūn Wen [1866-1925]. Honored by republicans and communists as the Father of Modern China, Dr. Sūn was a medical doctor who helped overthrow the Qing Dynasty [1644-1911]. He was the co-founder of the Guómíndăng and the first provisional president of post-imperial China. As a teenager, he attended `Iolani School in Honolulu as a boarding student. At graduation, King David Kalākaua presented him an award for English grammar. He subsequently attended Punahou School for a semester.
Sushi. Sour tasting. [Japanese] Hand-rolled sheets of nori [edible seaweed] or a thin omellete, soy paper, cucumber, or perilla leaves, that are layered with rice cooked with vinegar and other protein or vegetable fillings. Kappa makisushi is named for a Japanese monster that eats cucumber.​

  Taijitu. Also Tai Chi. Great pole, highest point or goal. [Chinese] Symbol for duality within the universal, indivisible wholeness. Meeting of yin and yang, dark and light, female and male, moon and sun.
Tan Heong Shan. Tánxiāng [Pinyin]. Fragrant Sandalwood Mountain. Name for Hawai`i, as used by Chinese immigrants. Today the word specifies the city of Honolulu.
Tao Te Ching. Also Dàodéjīng [Pinyin].  A book on Chinese philosophy.  While an early copy dating to the fourth century BCE has been discovered, its date and authorship by “The Old Master” is debated. It is generally credited to Lao-Tzu [Lǎozǐ, Pinyin], a legendary philosopher and poet believed to have been an official within the Zhou [Zhōu cháo, Pinyin] Dynasty [1046-256 BCE].
Terra firma. Solid earth. [Latin]
Tierce. Also trifecta. A type of horse race bet, in which the better selects the exact order of placement by the top three horses.​​
* `Ukulele. Flea. Small Portuguese guitar made popular by a lively British army officer nicknamed `ukulele.
* Una. Tortoise shell.
* Wahine. Girl, woman, lady. Something reflecting femininity.
* Waikīkī. Spouting water. The name of a Hawaiian chiefess; a famous beach on the island of O`ahu.
* Wauke. Paper mulberry tree [Broussonetia papyrifera].
   Yang. Masculine aspect of nature [Chinese], expressed in sun, light white, gold, and strength. Chinese surname; clan and dynasty.
   Yin. Feminine aspect of nature, [Chinese] expressed in moon, darkness black, silver, and passivity. A Chinese surname and dynasty.
   Yue.  Ancient state of China. Dialect of Chinese spoken in the Guǎngdōng Province in the south of the PRC.
   Yum cha. Tea tasting, drinking tea, or having tea time with food [Chinese].
   Zhōngguó. Central State[s]. [Chinese] The most common name for China since antiquity.  
   Zhū lián bì hé. Perfect strand of jade and pearl gems [Chinese].


You can communicate with me directly at Contact Jeanne

For fun, check out Island Recipes on the drop down menu above. ​

Help with wordsmithing? Visit

Branding & development tips at Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation


~ Facebook  ~ Amazon ~ Apple Books ~ Audible ~ Authors Den

~ Barnes and Noble ~ Blogarama ~ Book Bub ~ Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited 

~ Good Reads ~ Hometown Reads ~ Midpoint ~ Smashwords



FINALIST, Mystery/Suspense ~ WINNER, Cover Art 6x9 Fiction



2nd PLACE, Published Fiction


FINALIST, Cozy Mystery ~ WINNER, Cover Art 6x9 Fiction


B O O K  A W A R D


WINNER for Fiction-Adventure -Drama 

Finalist for Mystery Crime and Cover Design-Fiction (6x9)

Available for order through independent bookstores [they need our support], 

Amazon, American West Books, Audible [PFM], Authors Den [offers samples],  

Baker and Taylor, Barnes and Noble,  Good Reads [offers samples],   

Ingram, Kobo, Midpoint, Rakuten Overdrive...