Top 13 Hawaiian Pidgin Words to Know Before You Go to Hawaii

Besides the ukulele and slack key guitar, one of the most distinctive sounds in Hawaii is Hawaiian Pidgin English, or Pidgin for short. The colorful creole language — a mix of Hawaiian and English syntax and vocabulary, plus words from Japanese, Portuguese, Ilocano, Tagalog, and others — arose in the plantation era when speakers of all those languages needed an easy way to communicate with each other. Now it’s a source of pride for many that they speak Pidgin as well as standard English (and increasingly Hawaiian, too.)

While it takes years for nonnative speakers to learn Pidgin’s intonations and grammar, it’s easy to learn a few key words before you visit — not to use in your own speech, but to recognize them in others. Be sure to also check out these 15 key Hawaiian words, and top phrases many of which are used in Pidgin too, like lua (loo-uh), meaning toilet or bathroom. 

Want rock that cool Big Foot Aloha vibe? We’ve collected a few options for you. 

And if you're having a hard time, don't worry...

Other visitors also have a tough time.

1. Bra / braddah / bruddah

Definition: Bro, brother.

Pronunciation: Brah, brah-dah or bra-dah

How to use it in a sentence: Howzit braddah? How you? You good?

2. Bumbye

Definition: Eventually, later on.

Pronunciation: Bum-bye

How to use it in a sentence: Wen we go Disneyland? Bum-bye.

3. Buggah

Definition: Person, usually male.

Pronunciation: Bah-guh

How to use it in a sentence: Da buggah is always late.

4. Choke

Definition: A lot.

Pronunciation: Choke, like in standard English.

How to use it in a sentence: You like one penny? No worries, I get choke!

5. Hamajang, hammajang

Definition: Messed up, askew, out of order.

Pronunciation: Hah-mah-jang

How to use it in a sentence: My hair was all hamajang so I put in hair gel to make it nice.

6. Kau kau

Definition: Food, meal, to eat.

Pronunciation: Cow-cow

How to use it in a sentence: My maddah wen make some kau kau. You like?

7. Moke

Definition: This is the local version of a stereotypical redneck male. He drives a pickup truck and hunts, but probably surfs, too. Pidgin is his preferred language, and rubber slippahs (defined below) are his preferred footwear.

Pronunciation: Mok’ — rhymes with “choke”

How to use it in a sentence: All da mokes wen chase me outta da watah!

8. Shi shi

Definition: Pee, to urinate. 

Pronunciation: She-she

How to use it in a sentence: Please shishi in the lua (bathroom), and not in the ocean — coral bleaching is real.

9. Slippahs

Definition: Flip-flops, sandals (as seen up top). Generally the final “r” isn’t pronounced in the English words in Pidgin — something it has in common with some Boston and British accents.

Pronunciation: Sli-pah

How to use it in a sentence: Ey brah wea my slippah stay?

10. Stay

Definition: Is, are, but only when referred to impermanent states like location or emotion, similar to “estar” in Spanish.

Pronunciation: Stay, like in standard English.

How to use it in a sentence: Wea Brian stay?

11. Stink-eye

Definition: A dirty look of disapproval, doubt or distrust. Try to speak Pidgin and you’re likely to get this.

Pronunciation: Stink-eye, like in standard English.

How to use it in a sentence: Eh, no geev me dat stink eye.

12. Tita

Definition: The female equivalent of “moke.” Mess with her and you’ll get more than stink-eye.

Pronunciation: Tih-tah

How to use it in a sentence: She stay full on tita, yeah?

13. Wen

Definition: Used in front of a verb to signify past tense. “He wen go,” means, “he went.” Wen also indicates past tense when used in front of a verb.

Pronunciation: When

How to use it in a sentence: How much you wen geev him?

Still struggling?

Speaking it can even make every day life challenging for locals.

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