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Photo Credit: Rexie Adlawan

It’s no secret that aloha is one of the most well-known Hawaiian words — both in the islands and around the world. As the song says, not only can aloha be used as a greeting, but also a farewell or good-bye. But there really is much more to this word…

The term aloha derives from Proto-Polynesia and dates back to the early 1800’s. When broken down, the literal translation of the phrase translates to [Alo] meaning ‘presence’ and [Hā] meaning ‘breath.’ Together the word aloha translates to ‘The presence of breath’ or ‘breath of life.’

There are no words to describe the meaning of aloha as there is more to the spirit of the word. Legend says the spirit behind aloha was taught to the Hawaiian children long ago as a way of life embodied in the following acronym:

A: “Akahai,” meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness
L: “Lokahi,” meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony
O: “Oluolu,” meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness
H: “Haahaa,” meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty
A: “Ahonui,” meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance

Through the years aloha became such a popular term due to its genuine nature and the word has been adopted by other languages and people around the world. This overwhelming popularity is what ultimately led Hawaii to be nicknamed the ‘Aloha State’ – as you’ll see on many Hawaii license plates when driving around the state.

The late Queen Lil’uokalani once said, “Aloha is to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

Regardless of its world popularity, the spirit behind aloha is alive and well. So, when visiting the islands, don’t be afraid to greet your hotel attendant or grocer at the store with a simple ‘Aloha’ while holding its true meaning close to your heart.