Aloha: share the love, share the stoke | Illustration: Hawaiian Vintage Postcards

The word "Aloha" has several meanings, and they all share a common Hawaiian origin, history, and culture. So, what does the term mean?

History books are unclear when the "Aloha" expression entered the Hawaiian vocabulary, but several sources date it back to the end of the 18th century.

The official publications tell us that "Aloha" derives from the Proto-Polynesian word "qarofa."

Interestingly, the Maori language has a similar word with identical meanings: "aroha."

Aloha means love, affection, peace, sympathy, pity, kindness, mercy, and compassion. However, it also has a broader impact on Hawaiian culture.

Aloha State: Hawaiian license plates are extremely cool | Photo: thelicenseplatesite.com

It's All About the Spirit

For the Hawaiians, there's "The Aloha Spirit," a unique way of living, the ultimate lifestyle, or the secret to a fulfilling life.

You can use it to greet someone or say goodbye.

Aloha is more than the sum of its meanings; the word/expression relates to a quasi-philosophical definition or concept.

Today, it is part of the daily Hawaiian language and still remains a relevant saying for Native Hawaiians.

The concept of "The Way of Aloha" is often used to describe the relaxed lifestyle and unique way of life that Hawaiians strive for.

These concepts reference the values of peace, unity, humility, and kindness.

But the expression is also considered to be more than just a word, but a state of mind that anyone can achieve.

If we dissect the name, we learn more and dive into the roots of Hawaii.

"Alo" means "to share"; "oha" means "to show affection or friendship," and "hā" means "life, breath," or "breath of life."

Ultimately, we get a positive attitude, an act of kindness.

However, historians underline that "hā" is not "ha," so the correlation might not be entirely correct.

The Aloha Spirit: a unique Hawaiian sentiment | Photo: Little Plant/Creative Commons

The Acronym Theory

Several sources suggest that the meaning of aloha cannot be fully described in words and that the spirit behind it is something that was passed down to Hawaiian children long ago as a way of life.

Some even state that the word has been described as an acronym, with each letter representing a specific virtue, such as:

  • A: Akahai, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness;
  • L: Lokahi, meaning unity, to be expressed;
  • O: Olu'olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
  • H: Ha'aha'a, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
  • A: Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance;

But always remember that "Aloha" is a Hawaiian word and that its translation is ethereal.

The Aloha Shirt

The Spirit of Aloha prevailed in Hawaiian culture and society.

In less than a century, the famous expression traveled the world and was adopted by multiple languages, with the help of surfing and its cool, laid-back attitude towards life.

To have or not have Aloha - that is the meaning of our existence. The popularity of the word kept growing, and Hawaii got a new nickname for the license plates: "Aloha State."

And who doesn't know the "Aloha Shirt," also known as the "Hawaiian Shirt"?

Aloha dress shirts feature colorful floral patterns and are widely used by men and women of all ages on formal and informal occasions.

It's a must in contemporary Hawaiian society.

The "Aloha Shirt" was first sold in Honolulu in 1935. Twenty years later, and after World War II, tourists began to buy the famous Hawaiian tropical-print shirts as souvenirs.

The year 2000 was declared "The Year of the Aloha Shirt" in memory of Ellery Chun, the tailor who introduced the iconic blouse.

Despite the overuse of the word "Aloha," the soul of the expression remains unaltered. And that is precisely what we should preserve and share, not only as surfers but also as citizens of the world.

Aloha nui loa.

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