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Haole (; Hawaiian ) is a term used in the U.S. state of Hawaii to refer to individuals of non-Hawaiian ancestry, in contrast to those of native Hawaiian ancestry and the other ethnicities that were brought in to work the plantations. In the Hawaiian language, the term has been used historically and currently to refer to any foreigner or anything else introduced to the Hawaiian islands of foreign origin.[1] The origins of the word predate the 1778 arrival of Captain James Cook, as recorded in several chants stemming from antiquity. Its use historically has ranged from descriptive to race invective.


  • History 1
  • Etymology 2
  • Discrimination 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


Haole first became associated with the children of European immigrants in the early 1820s. It unified the self-identity of these Hawaii-born children whose parents were as much culturally different as they were similar.[2] With the first three generations of Haole playing key roles in the rise of the economic and political power shifts that have lasted through the current day,[3] Haole evolved into a term that was often used in contempt especially after the missionaries imposed strict rules prohibiting games, singing, and playing. It evolved further to racial meaning, replacing "malihini" (newcomer[4]) in addressing people of Caucasian descent who move to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland by the 1860s.[5] A 1906 phrase book sometimes translates it to "English (language)".[6]


The Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert gives no etymology of the word.

The 1865 Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language, complied by Lorrin Andrews, shows the pronunciation as ha-o-le. A popular belief is that the word is properly written and pronounced as ʻole, literally meaning "no breath," because foreigners did not know or use the honi, a Polynesian greeting by touching nose-to-nose and inhaling or essentially sharing each other's breaths, and so the foreigners were described as breathless. The implication is not only that foreigners are aloof and ignorant of local ways, but also literally have no spirit or life within. [7]

Professor Fred Beckley

St. Chad Piianaia, a Hawaiian educated in England, said the word haole implies thief or robber (from hao, thief, and le, lazy). [7] In 1944, Hawaiian scholar Charles Kenn wrote, "In the primary and esoteric meaning, haole indicates a race that has no relation to one's own; an outsider, one who does not conform to the mores of the group; one that is void of the life element because of inattention to natural laws which make for the goodness in man. In its secondary meaning, haole ... implies a thief, a robber, one not to be trusted. ... During the course of time, meanings of words change, and today, in a very general way, haole does not necessarily connote a negative thought ... The word has come to refer to one of Nordic descent, whether born in Hawaii or elsewhere."[7]

Native Hawaiian Professor Fred Beckley said, "The white people came to be known as ha-ole (without breath) because after they said their prayers, they did not breathe three times as was customary in ancient Hawaii."[7]


An alleged tradition in some schools is Kill Haole Day.

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ KE KUMU HAWAII 12 Nowemapa (1834) an article printed in a missionary newspaper describing a recital by haole children in November 1834, with Hawaiian royalty, the American Consulate, ship captains, other notable persons of Oahu, and many missionaries in attendance.
  3. ^ HOME RULE REPUBALIKA 6 Nowemapa 1901 p.4
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ John Harris Soper (1906). Hawaiian Phrase Book: No Huaolelo a Me Na Olelo Kikeki Na Ka Olelo Beritania a Me Ka Olelo Hawaii. The Hawaiian news company. p. 64. 
  7. ^ a b c d Charles W. Kenn (August 1944). "What is a Haole?". Paradise of the Pacific. p. 16. 

Further reading

  • Elvi Whittaker (1986). The Mainland Haole: The White Experience in Hawaiʻi. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Ohnuma, Keiko (2002). "Local Haole - A Contradiction in Terms? The dilemma of being white, born and raised in Hawai'i". Cultural Values 6 (3): 273–285.  
  • Judy Rohrer (1997). "Haole Girl: Identity and White Privilege in Hawaiʻi". Social Process in Hawaiʻi 38: 140–161. 
  • Judy Rohrer (2006). ""Got Race?" The Production of Haole and the Distortion of Indigeneity in the Rice Decision". The Contemporary Pacific 18 (1): 1–31.  
  • Judy Rohrer (2010). Haoles in Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press.
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