Hawaiian Alphabet

Hawaiian Alphabet

The Hawaiian alphabet is called Pi’apa Hawai’i. It has only 14 letters and symbols, making it one of the world's shortest alphabets. Learning to speak basic Hawaiian is not difficult if you understand the alphabet and a few rules of pronunciation. Below, is a guide that will help you.


Pronouncing Hawaiian Vowels

There are 5 vowels. Here are their pronunciations, as written in English:

  • a ~ pronounced ~ ah,  as in blah
  • e ~ pronouncedeyas in they 
  • i ~ pronounced ~ eeas in creek
  • o ~ pronounced ~ o,   as in no
  • u ~ pronounced ~ oo,  as in troop

 In addition, the Hawaiian language uses a number of vowel combinations, or diphthongs. Using the vowel sounds listed above, say the two sounds together very quickly so they sound like one syllable. Put a slight emphasis on the first vowel.

Diphthong definition... gliding vowel,  a complex vowel sound in which the first vowel gradually moves toward a second vowel so that both vowels form one syllable

 The diphthongs are:

                   ae, ai, au, ao, ei, eu, oi, ou, iu


Pronouncing Hawaiian Consonants

There are 7 consonants in the Hawaiian Alphabet.  Here are their names and pronunciations:

  • he ~ pronounced and written like an English H
  • ke ~ pronounced and written like an English K
  • la ~ pronounced and written like an English L
  • mu ~ pronounced and written like an English M
  • nu ~ pronounced and written like an English N
  • pi ~ pronounced and written like an English P
  • we ~ pronounced like a very soft V , or, a cross between a W and a V

Try pronouncing the "we" letter now, in the word "Hawai'i".


Other symbols in the Hawaiian Alphabet

In addition, there are two other symbols that are considered to be a part of the alphabet, and not just punctuation. 

  • The okina* looks like a backwards apostrophe. It is a glottal stop that seperates vowel sounds.
  • The kohoka* is a line shown over vowels. It indicates that the vowel should be held longer.

*Note: These last two symbols, marked with an asterix, are not used on this site because they are generally not supported by internet browsers.


Three rules for accenting Hawaiian words

  • Generally, the second to last vowel receives the accent
  • If the second to last vowel is part of a diphthong (au, ai, etc.) then the whole diphthong is accented
  • Long vowels marked with a kohoka (a line over the vowel) are accented

Take a look on the side bar above to see more pages about the Hawaiian language.





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Hawaiian Alphabet and Pronunciation

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Here is the best online Hawaiian Dictionary that we have found.

Hawaiian Alphabet
Hawaiian Alphabet
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Pronouncing Hawaiian