Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings
(Bishop Museum Press 1983)
Selected by Melenani
Ke kai lipolipo
polihua a Kane
(1729). "The dark-blue
ocean of Kane." The deep sea out of sight of land.
Ka manu kahea i ka
wa'a e holo
"The bird that calls the canoe to sail." Said of the kioea (bristle-thighed
curlew), whose early morning call was often a signal to canoes to go
fishing or traveling.
Eia no kahi koe o ka
"Here is the only space left, the moamoa (a projection at the stern
of the canoe)." Said when offering a small space or seat to someone,
when every other space is occupied. (From the story of Pa'ao, who
offered the moamoa to Makuaka'umana, a priest, on a voyage from
Kahiki to Hawai'i. Makuaka'umana leapt from a cliff and landed on
the moamoa; thus, he was able to sail to Hawai'i.)
Ha'ule i ka hope wa'a
(489). "Left in the
aft of the canoe." Said of one who comes last or is tardy.
E pane'e ka wa'a oi
moe ka 'ale
the canoe moving while the billows are at rest." Said by Holowae, a
kahuna, to suggest that Kalani'Opu'u return to Hawai'i while there
was peace. Later used to stir one to action.
Ha'alele koa wa'a i
koa canoe has departed, leaving the warriors behind." Said when a
canoe goes off and leaves the people behind.
'Au i ke kai me he
"Cross the sea like a bird." To sail across the sea.
Ola i ke ahe lau
"Life is in a gentle breath of wind." Said of a breeze on a hot day.
Hu ka makani
(1133) "The winds roars." Said of great speed.
Poho pono na
pe'a heke a ku ana (2681). "A full sail helped him to
arrive." Said of a fast traveler.
Komo mai kau
mapuna hoe (1836). "Dip your paddle in." Join in the effort.
Ho'okahi ka 'ilau
like ana (1068). "Wield the paddles together." Work
E lauhoe mai na wa'a;
i ke ka, i ka hoe; i ka hoe, i ke ka; pae aku i ka 'aina
paddle the canoes together; bail and paddle, paddle and bail, and
the shore will be reached."If everybody pitches in, the work is
He ma'uka'uka hoe hewa
(809). "A person from
the uplands, unskilled in paddling."
He po'e ho'opiha wa'a
(897) "Canoe fillers."
Useless people, like riders in a canoe who do nothing to help.
Ka manu ka'upu halo 'alo
o ka moana
"The albatross that observes the ocean." A careful observer.
Ua ho'i ka noio 'au
kai i uka, ke 'ino nei ka moana
(2787). "The seafaring
noddy tem has returned to land, for a storm rages at sea." A weather
Lele ka 'iwa malie kai
"When the frigate bird flies out to sea, the rough sea will grow
calm." A weather sign.
He noio 'a'e
'ale no ke kai 1oa (844). "A noddy tern that treads over the
billows of the distant sea." An expression of admiration for a
person outstanding in wisdom and skill.
'A'ohe wa'a ho'ohoa 0
ka la 'ino
canoe is defiant on a stormy day."
E ho'i ka wa'a; mai
ho'opa'a aku i ka 'ino
(286). "Make the canoe
go back; don't insist on heading into a storm."
He ho'okele wa'a no ka
steersman for a stormy day." A courageous person.
Kihe ka ihu i ka 'ale
(1789). "One who
sneezes when the spray from the surf rises at the bow of the canoe."
Said of one who braves danger with indifference.
Mai ka ho'okui i ka
"From zenith to horizon." Expression in prayers to the gods, calling
them from everywhere.
Ulu o ka la
(2870). "The sun grows." Said of the light of sunrise just as
the sun's rim touches the horizon. The morning sun is used for
navigation to determine the primary direction of east.
0 na hoku no na
kiu o ka lani (2513). "The stars are the eyes of heaven."
The stars secretly observe all.
E 'ike ka hoku o ka
nalu, 0 hoku 'ula, o hoku lei
"Behold the stars of
the waves, the red star, the wreath of stars." When the rising and
setting stars are near the ocean horizon, they provide clues to
direction. [From a chant in the story of Paka'a and Kuapaka'a.]
He hewa i Kapua ka 'auwa'a
fleet of canoes without a compass landed at Kapua by mistake." Said
of one who is off his course, mentally or otherwise.
Aia ke ola i
Kahiki (58) "Life is in Kahiki." Life and prosperity are in
the care of the gods [The gods are said to reside in Kahiki.]
He kau auane'i i ka
"Watch out lest the canoe land on a rocky reef."
Pae mai la ka wa'a i
"The canoe has come ashore." Hunger is satisfied; desire fulfilled.
'A'ohe hana a Kauhikoa;
ua kau ka wa'a i ke 'aki
(139) "Kauhikoa has
nothing more to do; his canoe is resting on the block." The work is