When it comes to Hawaiian culture, one cannot overlook the significance of names. Hawaiian last names, in particular, carry a rich history and provide a glimpse into the diverse heritage of the islands. In this article, we will explore the origins, meanings, and cultural significance of Hawaiian last names, shedding light on the unique naming conventions and traditions of the indigenous people of Hawaii.

The Origins of Hawaiian Last Names

Hawaiian last names, also known as surnames or ‘inoa ho’ohana in the Hawaiian language, have a diverse range of origins. These names can be traced back to various sources, including:

  • Family Names: Many Hawaiian last names are derived from family names, passed down through generations. These names often reflect the ancestral lineage and connections to specific families or clans.
  • Occupational Names: Some Hawaiian last names are derived from the occupation or profession of an individual or their ancestors. These names provide insights into the traditional roles and skills of the Hawaiian people.
  • Geographical Names: Hawaiian last names can also be derived from geographical features, such as mountains, rivers, or landmarks. These names often indicate a connection to a specific place or region.
  • Adopted Names: Over time, many Hawaiians have adopted last names from other cultures, such as European or Asian names. These names reflect the influence of colonization and immigration on the Hawaiian islands.

The Meaning Behind Hawaiian Last Names

Hawaiian last names are deeply rooted in the language and culture of the islands. Each name carries its own unique meaning, often reflecting the values, beliefs, or characteristics associated with the individual or their ancestors. Here are some examples of common Hawaiian last names and their meanings:

  • Kalama: Derived from the Hawaiian word ‘kalama,’ meaning ‘torch’ or ‘light,’ this last name symbolizes enlightenment and knowledge.
  • Kaikaina: Meaning ‘younger sibling’ in Hawaiian, this last name signifies the position of being a younger brother or sister within a family.
  • Kamaka: Derived from the word ‘kamaka,’ which means ‘eye’ in Hawaiian, this last name represents the importance of vision and perception.
  • Kealoha: Meaning ‘the love’ or ‘the beloved’ in Hawaiian, this last name reflects the significance of love and affection in Hawaiian culture.
  • Kekoa: Derived from the word ‘kekoa,’ which means ‘the brave’ or ‘the warrior’ in Hawaiian, this last name represents strength and courage.

The Cultural Significance of Hawaiian Last Names

Hawaiian last names hold immense cultural significance for the people of Hawaii. They serve as a link to the past, connecting individuals to their ancestors and heritage. These names are a source of pride and identity, representing the unique cultural diversity of the Hawaiian islands. They also play a crucial role in preserving and promoting the Hawaiian language, as many last names are derived from Hawaiian words and phrases.

Furthermore, Hawaiian last names contribute to the sense of community and belonging among the people of Hawaii. They help establish connections and relationships, as individuals with the same last name may discover shared ancestry or familial ties. This sense of kinship is an integral part of Hawaiian culture and fosters a strong sense of unity among the people.

Preserving and Celebrating Hawaiian Last Names

As with many indigenous cultures, the preservation and celebration of Hawaiian last names are of utmost importance. Efforts are being made to ensure that these names are not lost or forgotten over time. Organizations and individuals are working towards documenting and archiving Hawaiian last names, along with their meanings and origins, to create a comprehensive database for future generations.

Additionally, cultural events and festivals provide platforms for celebrating Hawaiian last names and the rich heritage they represent. These events often include activities such as genealogy workshops, where individuals can learn more about their family history and the significance of their last names.


1. Can Hawaiian last names be translated into English?

Hawaiian last names can be translated into English, but it is important to note that the translation may not capture the full meaning or cultural significance of the name. Translations often lose the nuances and depth associated with Hawaiian words and phrases.

2. Are there any naming conventions specific to Hawaiian last names?

Yes, there are certain naming conventions followed in Hawaiian culture. For example, children are often named after their ancestors or given names that reflect their family lineage. Additionally, names may be chosen based on the time or circumstances of a child’s birth.

3. Are there any restrictions on using Hawaiian last names?

There are no specific restrictions on using Hawaiian last names. However, it is important to respect the cultural significance of these names and use them appropriately. It is advisable to consult with individuals or organizations knowledgeable about Hawaiian culture to ensure proper usage.

4. Can non-Hawaiian individuals have Hawaiian last names?

Yes, non-Hawaiian individuals can have Hawaiian last names. Many people of diverse backgrounds have adopted Hawaiian last names to honor the culture and heritage of the islands. However, it is essential to understand and appreciate the cultural context of these names.

5. How can I learn more about my Hawaiian last name?

If you have a Hawaiian last name and want to learn more about its meaning and origins, there are several resources available. You can consult genealogical records, reach out to cultural organizations, or connect with individuals knowledgeable about Hawaiian history and naming traditions.


Hawaiian last names are not just a collection of words; they are a gateway to the rich history and culture of the Hawaiian islands. These names reflect the diverse origins and traditions of the indigenous people, providing insights into their ancestral lineage, occupations, and geographical connections. Hawaiian last names hold immense cultural significance, fostering a sense of identity, community, and pride among the people of Hawaii. Preserving and celebrating these names is crucial for maintaining the cultural heritage of the islands and ensuring that future generations can connect with their roots.