Flowers arranged to make the word aloha
Flowers arranged to make the word aloha

Aloha (/əˈlhɑː/, Hawaiian: [əˈlohə]) is the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy, that is commonly used as a simple greeting[1][2] but has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians, for whom the term is used to define a force that holds together existence.[3]

The word is found in all Polynesian languages and always with the same basic meaning of "love, compassion, sympathy, kindness",[4] although the use in Hawaii has a seriousness lacking in the Tahitian and Samoan meanings.[5] Mary Kawena Pukui wrote that the "first expression" of aloha was between a parent and child.[4] The Oxford English Dictionary defined the word as a greeting like "welcome" and "farewell", using a number of examples dating back as far as 1798 and up to 1978 where it was defined as a substitute for "welcome".[citation needed]

Lorrin Andrews wrote the first Hawaiian dictionary, called A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language.[6] In it, he describes aloha as "A word expressing different feelings: love, affection, gratitude, kindness, pity, compassion, grief, the modern common salutation at meeting; parting".[7] Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian also contains a similar definition. Anthropologist Francis Newton states that "Aloha is a complex and profound sentiment. Such emotions defy definition".[5] Anna Wierzbicka concludes that the term has "no equivalent in English".[5]

The state of Hawaii introduced the Aloha Spirit law in 1986, which mandates that state officials and judges treat the public with Aloha.[8][9]

See also


  1. ^ Pukui, Mary Kawena (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0824807030. OCLC 229095.
  2. ^ Van Valkenburg, June A. (2012), Feeling My Way: Finding Purpose, BalboaPress, p. 69, ISBN 978-1-4525-5462-4
  3. ^ Carrol, Bret (2000). The Routledge Historical Atlas of Religion in America. Psychology Press. p. 19. ISBN 9780415921312.
  4. ^ a b Kanahele, George Hu'eu Sanford (1992). Ku Kanaka Stand Tall: A Search for Hawaiian Values. University of Hawaii Press. p. 470. ISBN 978-0-8248-1500-4.
  5. ^ a b c Wierzbicka, Anna (1992). Semantics, Culture, and Cognition: Universal Human Concepts in Culture-Specific Configurations. Oxford University Press. pp. 152–155. ISBN 978-0-19-536091-2.
  6. ^ Forbes, David W. (1998). Hawaiian National Bibliography, Vol 3: 1851–1880. University of Hawaii Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-8248-2503-4.
  7. ^ Andrews, Lorrin; Parker, Henry (1922). A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. Honolulu: Board of Commissioners of Public Archives of the Territory of Hawaii. p. 52.
  8. ^ Kerr, Breena (April 23, 2018). "In Hawaii, being nice is the law". BBC. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Hawaiʻi Law of The Aloha Spirit