ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi / Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian Word of the Day for Feb. 13: Ānuenue

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A helicopter crew from the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources posted a video of a 360-degree rainbow they recently saw over Waimea Canyon on Kauaʻi.

So for Feb. 13, the Hawaiian Word of the Day is ānuenue, which means rainbow, a favorable omen.

A helicopter crew of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources was treated to a view of a full-circle rainbow over Waimea Canyon on Kaua’i. Photo Courtesy: DLNR

Ānuenue, the Hawaiian Rainbow Goddess, is a messenger of the Gods. Legend says she was born of the divine wind and rain of Mānoa Valley on Oʻahu. Since ancient times the valley has been regarded as “the royal palace of rainbows.”

Ānuenue the Rainbow Goddess. Art by Mele Murals

Ānuenue is so beautiful that a rainbow follows her wherever she goes, bringing good luck and prosperity.

The colorful ānuenue has deep meaning to Hawaiians. It is on souvenirs, license plates and, of course, the University of Hawai’i sports teams are known as the Rainbow Warriors and Rainbow Wahine.

The Rainbows nickname dates to 1923. As the story goes, a rainbow appeared over the field during an upset of Oregon State. The team had been known as the Deans, but reporters started calling the team the Rainbows. Legend has it that the team never loses if a rainbow appears on the field.


Hawaiʻi’s football team adopted the nickname the Rainbow Warriors in 1974, but dropped “Rainbow” in 2000. It was put back in place in 2013.

Retro uniforms of the University of Hawaiʻi Rainbow Warriors. Photo Credit: UH

The ānuenue is believed to be a path to the heavenly world. For gods, it was a path to come down to earth.

“The ānuenue can represent so many things to various people and cultures throughout the honua (world),” University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumnus Kedan Waiokila Frank was quoted as saying on a UH website page. “For me, the ānuenue represents hope, love, equality and joy. All things that we need a little bit more of in Hawaiʻi and the world today!”

It’s no wonder so many other businesses, organizations and products use the term ānuenue in their names.

They include the Ānuenue Fisheries Research Center , a 4-acre facility on Sand Island, about six miles from downtown Honolulu. It serves as a base yard, hatchery and culture center for the State of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources.


Decades ago Sand Island used to be called Ānuenue Island, but that was changed in 1969 by a proclamation by memorandum of the Governor. But the name of the research center stuck.

The Ānuenue Canoe Club was founded in 1983 in Honolulu. Photo Courtesy: Ānuenue Canoe Club

The Ānuenue Canoe Club was founded in 1983 in the shadow of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Rainbow Tower next to the old Heliport. It is a low profile small canoe club which reflects the lifestyle and philosophy of coach and founder Nappy Napoleon, according to its website.

The Tripler Army Medical Center Dining Facility on Oʻahu is called the Ānuenue Cafe. There is Kula Kaiapuni ‘O Ānuenue high school in Honolulu and Ānuenue preschool in Makawao on Maui.

In 1985, Camp Ānuenue was established to help kids who have had or are dealing with cancer. Today, children enjoy a week-long camp on the north shore of Oʻahu.

Many products also have connection to rainbows.


There’s ānuenue lettuce. Seedsavers.org says while its “mellifluous Hawaiian name” means rainbow, “this lettuce is a beautiful, uniform bright green.”

There is a whole series of aNueNue ukeleles. There is the rainbow koa for $175 at ukulelemovement.com.

Some products with ānuenue in their name.

There is the Ānuenue UT200E Moonbird acoustic electric tenor ukulele with case listed on sale for $1,698 at Pennylaneemporium. com. But alas, it is out of stock.

Maui Jimʻs has the Ānuenue polarized classic sunglasses. Its sales pitch: “Literally translated to mean “rainbow”, Ānuenue’s frame takes inspiration from the multicolored arches for a slightly curved square silhouette. Paired with MauiPure lenses, this style guarantees clear, vibrant views in a lightweight and versatile nylon frame. Featuring adjustable, rubber nose pads for all-day comfort, Anuenue makes the perfect companion for any adventure, planned or impromptu.”

And the North Shore Coffee Roasters makes an Ānuenue Blend. Its sales pitch: “A balance of different roast styles that display the different degrees of roasting, yet blend together to create a brilliant cup of coffee. This is proof that it is always sunshine and ānuenue (rainbows) in the Aloha State.”

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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