ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi / Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian Word of the Day for Feb. 1: ʻŌlelo

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In 2012, the month of February was recognized as Mahina ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, Hawaiian language month, to celebrate and encourage the use of the Hawaiian Language.

So our first Hawaiian Word of the Day, for Feb. 1, is ‘Ōlelo, which means language, speech, word, quotation, statement, utterance, term, tidings.

Like most indigenous languages throughout the world, the Hawaiian language faced a significant decline due to colonization. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Hawaiian language was ripped away from the local people when U.S. troops invaded the Hawaiian Kingdom. This led to a conditional surrender by the Hawaiian Kingdom’s executive monarch, Her Majesty Queen Lili’uokalani.

Portrait of Queen Liliuokalani, courtesy image from Wikimedia Commons.

Prior to this, ʻŌlelo Hawaii was the first language of Hawaiʻi’s people and the official language of the Hawaiian Kingdom. 


Ōlelo Hawai‘i has come a long way since the 1980s, when the language was considered nearly extinct with fewer than 50 keiki fluent in the language, according to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. By 2016, nearly 19,000 residents speak Hawaiian at home and that number continues to rise.

Over the past 40 years Hawaiian language immersion schools have revitalized the language, growing a new generation of mānaleo, native speakers with Hawaiian as their first language. The resurgence of Hawaiian language and culture are due in large part to the Hawaiian Renaissance.

Editor’s Note: Each day in February, we have a new “Hawaiian Word of the Day” during Mahina ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, Hawaiian Language Month. Check out the other words of the day on the Big Island website by clicking here.



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