Know the correct pronunciation, histories of place names of Hawaii

If you want to know the names of places in Hawaii, there is a book for you. It is, “Place Names of Hawaii,” by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert and Esther T. Mo‘okini. Published in 1966, was updated in 1974 and is still valuable and accurate more than four decades later.

This book includes the names of valleys, streams, mountains, land sections, surfing area, towns, villages and Honolulu streets and buildings.

For those new to Hawaii, using proper pronunciation is key to not appearing foolish or careless. Locals will respect you far more if you learn the history of Hawaii, show respect — and say names correctly.

As the authors write: “A major endeavor of the compilers has been to record the pronunciation of the place names as spoken by elderly Hawaiians who are fluent in the language.”

“One of the pleasures of living in Hawaii is the presence of Hawaiians, with their ancient language and traditions. The place names provide a living and largely intelligible history.”

A few of the entries:

Fern Grotto: Cave-like grotto, Wailua River, Kauai.

Moku: Coastal land section.

‘Ele‘ele: Village, ditch, small-boat harbor, landing, and elementary school.

Ke‘ilu: Point, northeast of Kauai.

Po‘o: Ancient surfing areas, Kapa‘a and Waimea districts.

This book is a terrific reference tool and will help you learn the names of Hawaii. The more you know these names, the better off you will be here.


Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or


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