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Aloha (pronounced [əˈlōˌhä]) 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.

The Aloha Spirit law became official in 1986.[3]


The origins of the Hawaiian word aloha are unclear.[4] The word goes back to the very origins of Hawaii to Kahiki (the homeland) and even further. The word is found in all Polynesian languages and always with the same basic meaning of: love, compassion, sympathy and kindness[4] although the use in Hawaii has a seriousness lacking in the Tahitian and Samoan meanings.[5] Its beginnings may be seen in the Maori definition as "love of kin". Mary Kawena Pukui wrote that the "first expression" of aloha was between a parent and child.[4] The word has become a part of the English vocabulary in an awkward misuse.[6][7][8] The term is now part of English vocabulary. 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. The modern, common use epitomizes the appropriation of the Hawaiian Language and the cultural dispossession of Native Hawaiians.[6]

Lorrin Andrews wrote the first Hawaiian dictionary, called A dictionary of the Hawaiian language.[9] 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". Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert's Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian also contains a similar definition. The modern use as a greeting diminishes the terms original meaning and reduces it to the more superficial expression of Good wishes. Anthropologist Frances Newton states that "Aloha is a complex and profound sentiment. Such emotions defy definition".[5]

Hawaiians believe the concept to be unique, with no English equivalent.[5]

See also[edit]




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