How to Say “Hawaii” in Hawaii: A Guide to Formal and Informal Ways

Hawaii, a beautiful and vibrant place known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, holds a special place in the hearts of many. When it comes to pronouncing the name “Hawaii” itself, there are various ways to articulate it, depending on the context, formalities, and regional differences found within the islands.

Formal Ways to Say “Hawaii” in Hawaii

In formal settings or when using proper Hawaiian language, it is essential to use the correct pronunciation to show respect for the Hawaiian culture. Here are a few formal ways to articulate “Hawaii.”

Maintaining the Hawaiian Pronunciation

The Hawaiian language has its own set of phonetic rules that differ from English. To pronounce “Hawaii” formally, the correct rendition is:


This pronunciation emphasizes the open vowels and the soft “w” sound often found in Hawaiian words. Remember to pronounce each syllable distinctly, with a slight pause between them.

Using the Anglicized Pronunciation

Although the formal Hawaiian pronunciation is preferable when interacting with locals or participating in traditional ceremonies, an Anglicized version of “Hawaii” is also widely accepted in formal settings. This pronunciation follows English phonetics and is often used by non-Hawaiian speakers:


This Anglicized version may be easier for individuals not familiar with the Hawaiian language, but it is important to note that the formal Hawaiian pronunciation is still the most respectful and authentic way to say “Hawaii.”

Informal Ways to Say “Hawaii” in Hawaii

In more casual and everyday conversations, especially among local residents or visitors, informal pronunciations of “Hawaii” can be heard. These versions may vary depending on personal preferences and regional accents. Here are some examples of informal ways to say “Hawaii.”

Dropping the Intensity

In informal contexts, individuals often drop the intensity of certain syllables and use a more relaxed pronunciation:

“ha-WAH-ee” or “ha-VAH-ee”

The first example reduces emphasis on the “i” sound, while the second example emphasizes the first two syllables more than the last one.

Contracting Syllables

Another informal way to say “Hawaii” is by contracting certain syllables, which is commonly heard in everyday conversations:


This variation condenses the second and third syllables to create a more fluid and relaxed pronunciation.

Regional Variations

While the preferred pronunciations described above are widely accepted across the Hawaiian Islands, regional accents and influences can lead to slight variations in how “Hawaii” is articulated. Here are a few regional distinctions to note:


On the island of Oahu, you may notice some individuals pronouncing “Hawaii” slightly differently:


This variation, with an extended “ai” sound, is attributed to local accents and regional linguistic differences.

Maui and Hawaii Island

On Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii, pronunciations tend to align closely with the formal Hawaiian pronunciation. However, due to regional accents, the pronunciation might sound slightly different:

“ha-VAH-ee” or “ha-WAH-ee”

These variations are generally well-accepted and reflect the influences of local cultures and accents found in these regions.


Whether you are speaking formally or informally, understanding the different ways to say “Hawaii” in Hawaii can help you navigate conversations and show respect for the local culture. Remember to prioritize the formal Hawaiian pronunciation when participating in traditional ceremonies or interacting with the Hawaiian community. In informal contexts, such as everyday conversations, variations may occur depending on personal preferences and regional accents, while still maintaining the essence of the word.

Exploring the unique ways “Hawaii” is pronounced and embracing the linguistic diversity within the islands lends richness and authenticity to your experience in the Aloha State.

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