The Meaning of Aloha

I’ve had a really fantastic day so far and I wanted to spread some of my positive energy out there to anyone who could use a little aloha.



The word aloha is used frequently by Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. It is associated with the surf lifestyle, Hawaiian culture, and as a “tropical” greeting to haoles (usually referring to white mainlanders on the Hawaiian Islands). Most people know aloha from the song Aloha O’e, one of the most famous Hawaiian songs written by Queen Lili’ukalani, Hawaii’s last queen.

Because of my love for all things Hawaiian, I decided to investigate the meaning of aloha and how it is used by Hawaiians on the Hawaiian Islands. After perusing the interwebs for a few days, this is what I found:

Commonly used as a greeting, aloha comes from the Hawaiian language and also means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. Before Western contact, other commonly used Hawaiian greetings were welina and anoai.

Aloha is derived from the Proto-Polynesian root garofa with cognates in other Polynesian languages – alofa in Samoan and Aroha in Maori.


According to a folk analysis of the word, aloha can be broken down into smaller units to derive meaning: Alo means presence, front, face, share and ha means breath of life, essence of life – therefore meaning presence of breath or the breath of life. Another linguistic breakdown is the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo).

Other phrases that commonly include aloha are:

  • Aloha kakahiaka: good morning
  • Aloha ‘auinalā: good afternoon
  • Aloha ahiahi: good evening
  • Aloha kāhou: welcome to all

Aloha is a Hawaiian symbol. It signifies a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. It teaches us to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others. Old kahunas (priests) said being able to live the Spirit of Aloha was a way of reaching self-perfection and realization for our own body and soul. So if we take aloha to mean life energy and affection, we need to send that positive energy to receive positive energy and live in harmony. When you live the Spirit of Aloha, you create positive feelings and thoughts, which are never gone. They exist in space, multiply and spread over to others.

An example of the Aloha Spirit in mass media is found in Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Though a simplistic example, the love and acceptance Lilo passes on to Stitch allows her ohana (family) to eventually live in harmony with each other, the land, and even the aliens.


The Spirit of Aloha goes further than just words and symbols; it is actually written into Hawaiian state law. It serves as a reminder to government officials to treat people with deep care and respect, as their ancestors did. The actual Aloha Spirit State Law reads as follows:

[§5-7.5] “Aloha Spirit.” (a) “Aloha Spirit” is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, “Aloha,” the following unuhi laula loa may be used:

  • 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

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of Native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.

“Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

“Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

“Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.

“Aloha” means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

(b) In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department, the chief justice, associate justices, and judges of the appellate, circuit, and district courts may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the “Aloha Spirit.” [L 1986, c 202, §1]

Aloha Spirit also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal, and to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.  Aloha is an energy that allows you to become more attuned to the Universal Power (mana) used for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity, and success. The secret is: bless everyone and everything that represents what you want. Give recognition or emphasis to a positive quality, characteristic, or condition with the intent that what is recognized or emphasized will increase, endure or come into being. Verbal blessings are:

  • Admiration
  • Affirmation
  • Appreciation
  • Anticipation

To increase the benefits of aloha, you should give up negativity and negative thoughts: criticizing instead of admiring, doubting instead of affirming, blaming instead of appreciating, worrying instead of anticipating. (This is starting to sound like The Secret, right?)

Aloha is also learned by children as a golden rule. Taught to children at a young age, aloha instills a sense of respect and lays a framework for how life should be lived and how to interact rightfully in the natural world:

Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain – it is my pain. When there is joy – it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian – this is Aloha!

A, ala, watchful, alertness
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia’i’o, truthful honesty
H, ha’aha’a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance

So there you have it. A brief overview of the real meaning of aloha! More than just a greeting, aloha is a feeling, a way of thinking, and a way of life. When I tell you to live aloha  or spread some aloha today it’s more than just showing gratitude, appreciation, and love to others but to yourself as well. You get what you give, so why not put out positivity and love? Use the Spirit of Aloha like the goldren rule and try to practice it daily and I promise you it will make a difference in your life. Even though Hawaii is a part of the United States, mainlanders tend to treat it like nothing more than an exotic vacation spot. I think this is a huge mistake because if more people took a few minutes to read this post, or read anything about the Hawaiian culture we might benefit as a society to integrate the Spirit of Aloha into our everyday lives, personal and professional relationships, and state government. So the next time you say aloha, remember that it’s more than just a greeting; it’s a way of life!

Until next time, practice aloha!

Works Consulted:

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