Language Glossary | Flower Glossary

Glossary of Hawaiian Language
Ka `Ôlelo Hawai`i

a’o: to learn

i’e kuku: a wooden mallet used to make the kapa cloth used in Hawaiian quilting.

kapa: term used for the finished quilt. Also the original name for quilts made of bark from the ulu tree. The bark was taken and hammered into fine sheets and soaked in the river for a month. When the bark was retrieved, three layers of the bark where sewn together, as there are three layers in modern quilting.

kapu : defined as "forbidden." In the Hawaiian language there are secret meanings to every word spoken. The use of this secretive language is a cultural practice guarded by the Hawaiian community. It is a cultural taboo to pass on these forbidden secrets. This practice is also seen in quilt patterns. A quilter is not allowed to use another quilter's design unless it is given to them by the originator of the design. It is considered forbidden to replicate another lau.

keikis: children.

kuiki: simply the verb ‘to quilt.’

kuiki lau: echo or contour quilting designs. This consists of repetitive lines of tiny stitches following the appliquéd design and in rows out from the quilts center.

kuiki maka moena: “quilting in mat weave design.”

kuiki pap pelena: “quilting in reef cracker designs.”

kukui: a term that holds multiple meanings in Hawaiian tradition; most importantly described as quilting. The kukui is a tree from which oil is extracted to light lanterns. The literal translation of kukui is “light” and is referred to in a spiritual sense. This term captures the essence of Hawaiian quilting as a spiritual activity reliant on the earth and creativity.

hapai: pregnant.

hula: dances used as a traditional means of passing down family history.

lau: the basic design pattern of a Hawaiian quilt. The lau is the personal creation of the quilt designer and is only to be replicated by another if given permission.

lau hala: a mat made of palm fronds. This a weave design Ginger implemented in her own quilting designs.

mauka: mountain side. The mauka serves as a muse for many quilters, as does much of the Hawaiian landscape.

malie: calm.

maole: literally translates to mean “no breath.” Maole is often used as a derogatory term for non-Hawaiians, essentially white people. Native Hawaiians will not greet a white person with an open-mouthed kiss. This is based on a fear of tainting their own mana with that of an enemy.

mana: the spirit instilled in each quilt. The spiritual and sacred element each quilter pours into their creation. Hawaiian tradition holds that mana is present in the breath of every person. Native Hawaiians when greeting one another typically kiss with an open mouth. By the opening of the mouth, the breath, their mana, mixes to make them stronger people.

meles: songs used as a traditional means of passing down family history.

ohana: family. This does not exclusively pertain to blood relations. In Hawaiian culture there are several layers of family. There is a strong sense of community among the people.

pakalana: the sweet smelling flowers native to the Hawaiian islands. These flowers are often the inspiration for quilting patterns.

piko: the center, or navel, of a quilt where the design (lau) radiates from. This is where the quilter’s spirit enters the quilt.

pukas: holes.

tapa: the type of cloth used in other South Pacific cultures for quilting. It is made from the bark of a tree, normally a mulberry tree, and pounded out into a soft thin material. Hawaiians also have a similar practice, but make no distinction in name from simply kapa.

ulu: the breadfruit tree. According to quilting tradition, a woman laid out a piece of cloth out under an ulu tree one day and was inspired by the pattern the shade created. She appliquéd the design onto another cloth and created her first quilt. It is still believed that in order to become a good quilter all new quilters should use the ulu tree as the pattern for their first quilt. The ulu tree is also a great source of life for Hawaiians, providing food, medicine and shelter. Old men request to be buried under an ulu tree so they may continue to provide for their families. There is a deep spiritual connection between Hawaiians and the breadfruit tree. The breadfruit tree is a symbol passed on to wish that the recipient never hunger for wisdom and knowledge.

wauke: the mulberry tree. The bark of this tree is pounded out to make to the kapa cloth used for quilting.

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