Hawaiian proverbs

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Proverbs from all Hawaiian speaking parts of the world.

A[edit]

  • Aia i ka mole kamalii.
    • "Children always begin at the foundation.
    • The folly of children is no matter for astonishment.
    • [1]
  • Aia i kula i ka alaalapuloa.
    • [Gone on the plain to gather ʻalaʻalapūloa]
    • The alaalapuloa, sometimes called uhola, is a species of useless shrub, and hence the proverb — Gone on a fool's errand.
    • [1]
  • Alaalawa na maka o ka aihue.
    • The eyes of a thief look every way.
    • [An expression of suspicion toward a shifty-eyed person.]
    • [1]
  • Aohe hana a Kauhikoa, ua kau na waa i ke aki
    • Kauhikoa has done his work and put the canoes back on their stools.
    • Everything is lovely, and the goose hangs high," is reproduced in the Hawaiian.
    • [1]
  • Aohe pilipili aina mai.
    • No where's near land.
    • Meaning one who is very far from obtaining what he desires.
    • [1]
  • Aohe pilo uku.
    • Nothing wrong in the pay;
    • Meaning that any reward is acceptable.
    • [1]
  • Awapuhi lau pala male,
    • The ginger root has a leaf that rots quickly.
    • Said of a weakling who withers easily, or of anything that passes too soon.
    • [1]

E[edit]

  • E ku no ia ma kapuka o ka hoka.
  • He will stand at the door of disappointment.
    • Said of any one doomed to defeat.
    • [1]
  • E o mai ana ka ua lipuupuu lipalawai o Lihue,
    • The rain of Waimea will wet through.
  • Said of quarrels that hurt both parties.
  • E nihi ka hele i ka uka o Puna
    • "Step carefully when you are travelling inland through Puna
    • Puna is a region is full of cavities, pitfalls for the unwary traveller.
    • [1]
  • E noho iho i ke opu weuweu, mai ho ` oki`eki`e.
    • Translation: Remain among the clumps of grass and do not elevate yourself.
    • English equivalent: The meek shall inherit the earth.
    • Meaning: "Humility will ultimately be rewarded."
  • Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him.
  • E pupukahi ka manao
    • Only one shell for all.
    • Be of one mind.
    • [1]
  • Ehuehu ahiahi.
    • The red sky of evening.
    • Applied to old age.
    • [1]

H[edit]

  • Haha poele ka papai o Honolulu.
    • Honolulu people know how to feel for crabs.
    • [1]
  • Haa ka mikioi i ke kai o Lehua.
    • "It takes a skillful sailor to go to Lehua.
    • Warning not to undertake what you have not the ability to accomplish.
    • [1]
  • Haumanumanu e ka ipu inoino e
    • "How full of holes is that dirty calabash
    • Said of an ill-favored person.
    • [1]
  • Hawawa ka heenalu, hai ka papa.
    • The awkward person breaks the board in riding on the surf
    • — applied to those who undertake something with which they are not familiar.
    • [1]
  • He alamakahinu.
    • A greased forehead.
    • Applied to a person who goes frequently to a chief for favors.
    • [1]
  • He eleelepi — ka waha o kanaka.
    • Dashing of the waves in different directions.
    • Spoken of men of totally different minds.
    • [1]
  • He lani iluna, he honua ilalo, onioni ia kulana a paa
    • Heaven above, earth below, and his own position firmly fixed.
    • Way of applauding a thrifty man.
    • [1]
  • He make no ke kalo a ola aku i ka naio.
    • The kalo root is dead, but there are live maggots enough.
  • Applied to battles in which the bravest had perished.
  • Hele poala i ke anu o Waimea
    • Going in a circle in the cold of Waimea
    • An allusion to the wandering around and around, back on one's track, in going to Waimea in the fog.
    • [1]
  • Hilinai Puna kalele ia Kau.
    • Trusting to Puna is leaning on Kau.
    • The application is to one who is credited on account of his backers.
    • [1]

I[edit]

  • I hooluu hoohualei ia e ka makani,
    • The wind will stir up all the loose dust.
    • An allusion to the fact that angry people will tell what they had better keep concealed.
    • [1]

K[edit]

  • Kahihi ka puka e ka upena nanana.
    • The entrance is stopped with a spider's web.
    • Applied to a person who is slandered.
    • [1]
  • Ka ikaika i ke ki, e kuu pokii, la ola.
    • Pull hard at the ki root my boys, you'll get it at last.
    • Lahainaluna scholars' expression for a student's perseverance till he obtains the mastery, very much like our "grubbing at Greek roots."
    • [1]
  • Ke hui nei kalo i ka nawao.
    • The eatable of the worthless taro are mixed;
    • Hence, good and evil joined.
    • [1]
  • Ke lino a nei ke kehau o Waiopua.
    • He glistens with the fine dew of Waimea.
    • Applied to a man once poor, but subsequently wealthy.
    • [1]
  • Kiilili pua hau o Kalena
    • "Well dressed as the flowers of Kalena
    • A hill at Makawao, near a beautiful sheet of water, Kiowai)
    • [1]
  • Kolekole kou maka.
    • Your eyes are red.
    • Is a common taunt when any one has asked a favor and been denied.
    • [1]
  • Ku ke ehu o na wahi auwaa liilii
    • How the spray dashes up before that fleet of little canoes!
    • Tempest in a teapot
    • [1]
  • Kuipeia e ka makani apaa.
    • Knocked flat by the wind apaa. [ʻĀpaʻapaʻa]
    • Sudden disaster.
    • [1]

L[edit]

  • Lele liilii ka lehu o kapuahi,
    • He is scattering the ashes of the fireplace.
    • [Said of one whose wrath sends everybody going in all directions to get out of his way...]
**[1]
  • Lila ka maia no eʻa: will ka oka'i
    • "The banana looks withered, but it has an excellent flavor,"
    • [1]

M[edit]

  • Mai noho a hele kikaha aku.
    • Don't walk hither and yon.
  • *Don't act without an object.
  • Mai noho a makamaka ilio, i ka huelo ka ike.
    • Don't be friends with the dog, for the tail will show it.
    • Applied to disreputable acquaintanceships.
    • [1]
  • Mai pii oe i ka lapa manu ole.
    • Don't go to the ridge where there are no birds.
    • Don't go on a wild goose chase
    • [1]
  • Maloo na iwi o Hua ma i ka la.
    • The bones of Hua and his company are dry in the sun.
    • An allusion to the legend of a chief and his followers who set out on a war-party, but passing to the leeward of the volcano were suffocated by its sulphurous fumes. The discovery of their bones explained the mystery of their sudden disappearance. It is applied to such discovery, or to disappointment in one's schemes.
  • Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua
    • "Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers"
    • Huna.org

N[edit]

  • Na manu kolea kau ahua.
    • Birds of a feather flock together.
    • [1]

O[edit]

  • O ka makapo wale no ka mea hapapa i ka pouli.
    • Translation: Only the blind gropes in the darkness.
    • English equivalent: Standing pools gathers mud.
    • Meaning: If you have no direction in life, you'll get nowhere or another way to put it is, "If you're going nowhere, you're guaranteed to get there."
    • Redfern (2009). Ancient Wisdoms: Exploring the Mysteries and Connections. AuthorHouse. p. 114. ISBN 1449057608. 
  • O ke aloha ka mea i oi aku ka maikai mamua o ka umeke poi a me ka ipukai ia
    • Love is far better than the poi dish or the fish bowl.
    • [1]
  • Oni kalalea ke ku a ka laau loa
    • The top of the tall tree waves proudly
    • Said in praise of good scholarship.
    • [1]

P[edit]

  • Pali ke kua, mahina ke alo
    • A back straight as a precipice, a front round as the moon.
    • A favorite phrase in praise of a well-formed person.
    • [1]
  • Pai na lima, ae na waha.
    • The hands strike, the mouths assent
    • A solemn promise.
    • [1]
  • Pau ka pali, hala ka luuluu kaumaha.
    • Past the precipice, past the fears.
    • An expression of congratulation on trouble ended.
    • [1]
  • Pii ka ihu o ka naia i ka makani,
    • "The porpoise always holds his nose up to the windward,"
    • An allusion to the manifestations of rising anger.
    • [1]
  • Pili nakekeke.
    • Literally, Loosely fastened. Unreliable person, not permanent.
    • [1]
  • Pohaku eleku.
    • Stone easily broken; [a dark lava rock]
    • A good for nothing, cowardly person. [a dark-skinned person]
    • [1]
  • Pua ka wiliwili, nanahu ka mano.
    • While the wiliwili is in blossom, the sharks will bite.
    • An old saying, ... is applied now to those who will run the risk of illicit love, and find themselves nabbed by the officers of the law.
    • [1]

U[edit]

  • Ua hele i ke alamaaweiki.
    • He has gone along the untrodden path.
    • When one dies.
    • [1]
  • Ua kaha aku la ka nalu o kuu aina.
    • The surf has pressed upon my land:
    • — meaning that one is in adverse circumstances.
    • [1]
  • Ua kookoo-u i ke anu na mauna.
    • The chilling storm is on the mountains.
    • Designates a time of sorrow.
    • [1]
  • Uwene ke kolopa.
    • The crow-bar rings sharply.
    • Aapplied to successful effort.
    • [1]

References[edit]

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax Hawaiian Almanac and Annual [1883 pp52-58, H. L. SHELDON and C.M. Hyde