Aloha is the word used to say both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Hawaiian, but it means much more than just a simple salutation — aloha is a way of life.
The deeper meaning of aloha is spelled out in Hawaii’s Aloha Spirit law. Hawaii’s citizens, visitors, and government officials alike are expected to live and act in accordance to this principle, but what does the ‘aloha spirit’ mean?
Inspired by Maui elder and linguist Pilahi Paki’s impassioned speech to community leaders, the law (Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 5-7.5) was passed in 1986 and defines aloha as an acronym:
“Akahai, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;
Lōkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
ʻOluʻolu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
Haʻahaʻa, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.”
Pilahi Paki spoke of aloha not only as a definition, but as the legacy of Hawaii and its ancestors. Aloha embodies deeply held Hawaiian cultural beliefs about community, peace, spiritual truth, and expresses Hawaii's hopes for a harmonious future that extends to the whole world. The law continues,
“‘Aloha’ is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation. ‘Aloha’ means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. ‘Aloha’ is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ‘Aloha’ means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
As you can see, aloha is a beautiful word with a very complex meaning — but not too long ago the Hawaiian language was almost lost to the world. Hawaiian is one of the official languages of Hawaii, but in 1990, only a handful of Hawaiian speakers remained. Thanks to the rise of Hawaiian-language immersion schools and a focus on revitalizing the language, the number of native speakers is slowly rising — however, the Hawaiian language remains in danger of extinction.
You can celebrate Hawaiian culture and protect an endangered language by learning to speak Hawaiian with Mango Languages’ Hawaiian course. You’ll learn Hawaiian through real-life scenarios complete with cultural notes and native-speaker audio. Click the link below to get started, and remember, no matter where you live, you can keep the spirit of aloha alive and well by exhibiting the five traits of aloha as told to us by Pilahi Paki.
How do you express aloha in your daily life? Let us know in the comments below!