Popular Hawaiian Baby Names

Waikiki-Beach-Charles-Furneaux

Which Hawaiian names are popular in Hawaii right now?

I read through the current list of top baby names in Hawaii and picked out as many traditional Hawaiian names as I could. Here they are, plus their definitions (and their missing ‘okinas!).

Popular Hawaiian Names for Girls

  • Leilani, 19 baby girls, means “heavenly (lani) flowers/child (lei).”
  • Mahina, 15, means “moon” or “moonlight.”
  • Kalena, 13, means “the (ka) yellow (lena).” Yellow was once symbolic of the alii, Hawaii’s powerful royal class (source).
  • Kaila, 11, means “style, fashion.”
  • Hali’a, 9, means “sudden remembrance, memory.”
  • Kai’a, 9, means “the (ka) fish (i’a).”
  • Kailani, 8, means “heavenly (lani) sea (kai).”
  • Keani, 7, means “the (ke) soft breeze (ani).”
  • Mehana, 7, means “warmth, heat.”
  • Hi’ilani, 6, means “held in the arms (hi’i) of heaven (lani).”
  • Kailana, 6, means “calm (lana) sea (kai).”
  • Kamaile, 6, means “the (ka) maile vine.”
  • Lilinoe, 6, means “fine mist.”
  • Malie, 6, means “calm.”
  • Anuhea, 5, means “cool, soft fragrance.”
  • Hi’ilei, 5, means “child (lei) held in the arms (hi’i).”
  • Ilihia, 5, means “excited” or “awe-stricken.”
  • Kawena, 5, means “the (ka) glow (wena).”
  • Kealani, 5, means “heavenly (lani) whiteness (kea).”
  • Lea, 5, is the name of a Hawaiian goddess.
  • Mahealani, 5, means “sixteenth day of the lunar month; night of the full moon” (source).
  • Nai’a, 5, means “dolphin.”
  • Noelani, 5, means “heavenly (lani) mist (noe).”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser said Malia (ranked 21st overall) was the most popular Hawaiian name for girls in 2013, but Malia is is just the Hawaiian form of the non-Hawaiian name Mary, so I didn’t include it. I didn’t include several other names (like Keoni, Hawaiian for “John”) for the same reason.

Popular Hawaiian Names for Boys

  • Kai, 38 baby boys, means “sea.” Kai was the 19th most popular boy name overall in Hawaii last year.
  • Kainoa, 21, means “the (ka) namesake (inoa).”
  • Kaimana, 20, means “power (mana) of the sea (kai).”
  • Koa, 16, means “warrior, brave” or is a reference to the koa tree.
  • Nainoa, 11, means “the (na) namesakes (inoa)” — na is the article used for plural nouns.
  • Makoa, 10, means “fearless.”
  • Nakoa, 10, means “”the (ne) brave ones/koa trees (koa).”
  • Kana’i, 9, means “the (ka) conqueror (na’i).”
  • Makana, 9, means “gift.”
  • Ka’eo, 8, means “full of knowledge.”
  • Kahiau, 8, means “generous.”
  • Kainalu, 8, means “billowy (nalu) sea (kai).”
  • Keanu, 8, means “the (ke) coolness (anu).”
  • Noa, 8, means “commoner/free man.”
  • Kaleo, 7, means “the (ka) sound/voice (leo).”
  • Kamaha’o, 6, means “wondrous.”
  • Kanoa, 6, means “the (ka) commoner/free man (noa).”
  • Kekoa, 6, means “the (ke) brave one/koa tree (koa).”
  • La’akea, 6, means “sacred (la’a) white/light (kea).”
  • Makai, 6, means “toward (ma) the sea (kai).”
  • Mana, 6, means “supernatural or divine power.”
  • Alaka’i, 5, means “leader.”
  • Kaiea, 5, means “rising (ea) sea/tide (kai).”
  • Ka’imipono, 5, means “the (ka) seeker of righteousness (‘imi pono).”
  • Kalani, 5, means “the (ka) heavenly one/royal one (lani).”
  • Kamakani, 5, means “the (ka) wind (makani).”
  • Koamalu, 5, means “brave (koa) peace (malu).”

While I was gathering all those definitions, I also found a bunch of other interesting Hawaiian names, such as…

  • ‘Aukai, “seafarer” (‘au, “travel” + kai, “sea”). It’s like the Hawaiian version of Sailor.
  • Kapi’ioho, “curly hair.” It’s like the Hawaiian version of Crispin (Latin crispus, “curly”).
  • ‘Opunui, “big-bellied” (‘opu, “belly” + nui, “big”). Big bellies were a status symbol in old Hawaii. According to one source, “the elite lived lavishly, were feasting constantly, and the highest chiefs were distinguished by their corpulence.”
  • Leiko is a hybrid Hawaiian-Japanese name: lei, “flowers/child” + ko, “child.”

Do you have a favorite Hawaiian name? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

Source: Bodley, John H. Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System. Lanham, MD: AltaMira-Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.

2 Responses to Popular Hawaiian Baby Names

  1. I really like Koa, I think its my fav out of the bunch

  2. According to the blog Republic of Names, these were the most disproportionately popular baby names in Hawaii in 2013:

    Girl names:
    1. Ilihia
    2. Hiilani
    3. Lilinoe
    4. Mehana
    5. Hiilei
    6. Keani
    7. Kawena
    8. Mahina
    9. Tehani
    10. Taimane

    Boy names:
    1. Kahiau
    2. Kamakani
    3. Laakea
    4. Kamahao
    5. Koamalu
    6. Kaimipono
    7. Kaiea
    8. Nainoa
    9. Kanai
    10. Alika

    There’s a lot of overlap between these names and the list above. In fact, all but three are mentioned in the post. (The three are Tehani, Taimane and Alika — Tehani is Tahitian, Taimane is Samoan, and Alika is the Hawaiian form of the Western name Alex.)

    Source: Republic of Names: Distinctive Names: Hawaii

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