Hawaii is one of the most picturesque places on our planet. The only U.S state located in Oceania and composed entirely of islands, Hawaii is often described as a tropical paradise.
Diverse natural scenery, countless sandy public beaches, colourful foliage, active volcanoes and Polynesia delights are what attract so many people to this part of the world. Tourists, scientists, and avid surfers flock to Hawaii. The islands of Hawaii have inspired movies, music, fashion, and baby names.
Hawaiian baby names can be beautiful and meaningful. Some even fall into what you might call the exotic category. There are popular names that a lot of people have likely come across but don’t realize are inspired by the islands. An example of this would be the boy’s name, Kai. This short name has had a slow and steady climb up baby name lists over the last decade and is now at its most popular. The name Kai isn’t new though; it was used in a famous piece of literature. Kai was a knight of King Arthur’s roundtable. The name was also used for a boy adducted by the main character in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Although some Scandinavian communities have laid claim to the name, most people believe Kai originally came from Hawaii. By the way, if you ask a Hawaiian what Kai means, they will likely say “the sea”.
The letter “K” is popular for Hawaiian first names, but so is the letter “L” and “A”. Here’s a look at Hawaiian inspired baby names spanning the entire alphabet.
This masculine name is one that has seen a steady increase in popularity over the last 20 years in large part due to the notoriety of actor, Keanu Reeves. Although he was born in Lebanon, Keanu Reeves is a Canadian citizen who is said to be one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian. One can only assume that his parents felt inspired by the islands and therefore chose this Hawaiian name for their son.
Keanu means “the cool breeze”. Keanu Reeves is now in his early 50’s but go back several years and no doubt a lot of female movie watchers would describe him as a “cool breeze” among other nice phrases. Naming experts insist that people either love this name or hate it. Those who are not fond of the name Keanu say that it sounds too much like “canoe” and sounds like a “girl’s name”. While there may very well be some ladies out there with the name Keanu, registries across the United States seem to indicate it is used for boys.
This is a Hawaiian name that can be used for either gender. Kalani means “The sky” or “Chieftain”. In the Hawaiian culture, man and nature are intimately connected and all things reflect the presence of the gods. Man has always been tied to landforms, plants, animals, and yes – the sky. Polynesian mythic traditions suggest that the sky father, called Wakea and the earth mother, Papa, gave birth to the islands. It is believed that chiefs are related to the stars in the sky.
Hawaiians of the present feel that their respect for nature connects them to Hawaiians of the past, to plants and animals, to land, as well as the planets and stars in the sky. Having a name like Kalani sends a powerful message that the universe as a whole is united. Kalani Robb is a professional surfer who became a World Champion back in 1994. He also appeared in a number of movie’s including, Blue Crush and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Kalani Robb and his wife have a daughter named, Kealani. American Kalani Hilliker is a professional dancer and Kalani Miller is a California born Instagram sensation.
In Hawaii the baby name Kaila is a boy’s name, which stands for “style”, but many North American’s are accustomed to this name being used for girls. The name Kaila does have spelling variations, such as Kaylah, Kaelah, Kaela, Kayla and Kyla. Many people, Hawaiian and otherwise, see the name Kaila as a symbol of strength. This is also a prominent name in the North American Indian culture; however, it carries a different meaning. To them it means, “Wolf”.
While most people pronounce the name K- eh-la, in the Hawaiian culture it is actually pronounced K–eye-la. Today the name Kaila is immensely popular. There are about 50 well-known people who have this name, including professional actors, dancers, models, artists, athletes and social media influencers. Many of them use the spelling, Kayla. For example, Kayla Ewell is an American actress best known for her role as Vicki Donovan on Vampire Diaries.
“An offering” – that is what the name Alana represents to Hawaiians. This is considered to be a very precious and honoured name for a baby girl. While “Alana” is the common spelling on the islands, in other parts of the United States people have taken to spelling it other ways, including Allana, Alanna and most recently, Alayna. Born in Columbus Ohio, perhaps the most famous Alana is Alana De La Garza.
She played the fiery prosecutor, Connie Rubirosa for several years on the popular crime drama, Law & Order. Alana Blanchard is also well known. She is a model and Hawaiian born surfer who starred in her own show, “Surfer Girl”. Alana Stewart is an American model and actress who was married to rocker Rod Stewart and Alana Zimmer is a Canadian model that has been recognized for her runway work for top designers, such as Christian Dior and George Armani.
The name Alika is a Hawaiian inspired name for a baby boy, although some people are now using the name for their girls. It is believed that Alika represents the “protector” so if someone decides to use this name, they should know that it denotes responsibility. According to Hawaiian legend, people with the name Alika have a strong desire to teach and inspire others. They tend to be driven to achieve their goals.
For a very long time the name Alika was rarely used outside of Hawaii, but in the early 70’s the name started to appear in other countries, including the United States. In the late 70’s and early 80’s this name hit it’s highest point of popularity outside of the Hawaiian Islands. Alika Del Sol is an actress from Paris France and Alika Smekhova, pictured here, is a Russian born actress. Her real name is Alla, but she changed it to Alika. Alika Mendeiros is a native Hawaiian. Many describe him as an inspirational writer and storyteller. He wrote “Aloha Life”, the documentary about Hawaiian teachings and beliefs.
Despite what some people may think, Pika is not short for Pokémon Pikachu. This male name either inspired, or was inspired by the name Peter. Pika means “rock” or “stone”. As Hawaiian tradition would have it, the name Pika is a very honourable name. It conjures up images of a person who is strong emotionally as well as physically. Since it is associated with the name Peter, it also carries with it some deep history. For example, Simon Peter was the most prominent of the apostles during Jesus’ ministry. Some thought of him as the first pope. There have been bishops, kings, Prime Ministers (Danish and Dutch), professional athletes, artists, Nobel Prize winners, and famous actors with the name Peter, not to mention countless fictional characters.
This is considered a variant to the names Alana and Helen. Hawaiians say the name Lana means, “floating” but in other cultures it has a different meaning. For example, the Irish often use the name Lana and insist it means, “little rock”, while in Greece the name represents “light”. Two of the most famous people who carry this name are Lana Turner and Lana Del Rey.
Lana Turner was a glamorous Hollywood actress born in the 1920’s. In the late 30’s and early 40’s she was considered a sex symbol. She was actually born Julia Turner, but thought the name Lana sounded more sophisticated and enchanting so she changed her birth name. Lana Del Rey is also a stage name. She was born, Elizabeth Woolridge Grant in 1985. Today Lana Del Rey is known as a singer, songwriter and model. There are a few actresses in the United States that were born with the name Lana, including Lana Parilla. She is known for her role as an evil Queen on the show “Once Upon a Time”. No, Parilla is not from the Hawaiian Islands, she hails from Brooklyn New York.
In many countries the name Loni is a girl or boy’s name, but in Hawaii, which is where many believe the name originated, it is masculine. Loni is believed to be a variation of the name Lani – another popular first name on the islands. Lani means “heaven, sky”. Ask someone in Hawaii about the spelling Loni and they will likely tell you that it simply represents the “sky”.
In the early 80’s the name Loni was very popular in the United States. Actress Loni Anderson, seen in the photo above, was well-known for her role in the Television Hit WKRP in Cincinnati in the late 70's and early 80's. Some people who carry the name Leona like to be called Loni for short. Having a name like Loni is considered special since the “heaven, sky” is believed to be connected to ancestors.
There is an ancient Hawaiian celebration called, Makahiki that is closely connected to the name. Makahiki is the beginning of the Hawaiian New Year, which begins in mid-November and ends late January. It aligns with the rainy season and is a time that is meant to pay tribute to the harvest, as well as sports. As Hawaiian mythology has it, Lono is the God of rainfall and agriculture.
There are at least seven successful professional actresses with the first name Luana so it has some star quality. This Hawaiian inspired name symbolizes “happiness”. However, in both the United States and Canada the name seems to be admired not so much for the meaning, but for the sound (loo-AHN-ah). Many people think it is exotic. It is also interesting that many people in western cultures say they named their child Luana by combining the names Lou or Louise with Ann or Anna. Either way, Luana is a well-liked name for a baby girl. By the way, the actresses with the name Luana include, Luana Anders, a beautiful American film and television actress who lost a battle with breast cancer in 1996 at the age of 58, as well as Luana Patten, a child actress from the 40’s. Over the last decade more variations of the name have been popping up, including Luan, Luhannah, Luane, and Luanna.
This is a well-known name around the world, but it does have its roots in Hawaii. Lea represents the mythological goddess of canoe builders. In the United States it has taken on a different meaning. While we can’t say why; in America and in Greece, Lea represents someone who brings good news. Lea Thompson, Lea Michele, and Lea Seydoux are all actresses. There are many people who have modified the name and spell is Lia, or Leah. For instance, Leah Remini is the former star of the hit television comedy “King of Queens” and is former Scientologist, now focused on the documentary series “Scientology and the Aftermath”, currently airing on A&E. When it comes to the spelling of Lia, both the Italians and Spanish lay claim to it. Interestingly, this spelling was listed in the top 40 names in Germany in 2015. There are some people who also use the spelling, Lia as a short form for Julia.
The name Malia should be familiar to people everywhere. It is the name of former U.S President, Barack Obama’s eldest daughter. Malia Ann Obama is 18 years old. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and spent a great deal of his youth in Honolulu so it was no surprise when he and wife Michele named their daughter Malia. Malia Manuel is a famous surfer from Kauai, Hawaii; Malia Hosaka was a professional wrestler from Honolulu who retired in 2012. Malia Jones is an American model and surfer. Malia is the Hawaiian version of the name Mary. When not used as a person’s name, the word Malia means, “calm or gentle waters”. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that many people say the name is soft and flows off the tongue. In the United States, the name Malia reached its most popular point in 2007. People who like this name also report liking the names, Mia and Mila.
This name is similar to Malia and means “soothing”. Some believe it is just a variation of the name Melina, which is popular in Greece and in several Eastern European cultures. In some languages the name actually means “raspberry”, which is rather cute. In Sweden there is a similar name, spelled Malena. Historians say it represents a woman from “Magdala”. Magdala is a place along the Sea of Galilee. Many Christians believe that it was the home of Mary Magdalene. The name, Malina is the solar deity in the Inuit mythology. Some people with this feminine name are called Mali or Malin for short. Take note, Malina Wiesman is an up-and-coming American actress who has four films to her credit. She is the star of the just released, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix, which also features famous actor, Neil Patrick Harris.
The Hawaiian name Oline is a twist on the name Joy. How? Well, it is true that they don’t sound anything alike, but Oline on the Hawaiian Islands means “joyous”. It is considered a very traditional name. In fact, people in the U.S have named their baby girls Oline since the 1800’s. Back in 1885 it was very popular. Interest in the name seemed to slide in the 20’s, but experienced another phase of great interest in the 30’s. In Western cultures the name is also spelled Olene. This variation is often used as a nickname for girls who are named, Jolene. A creative form of the name Olene is Olian, but it is rare. People who choose the name Oline or Olene for their daughters tend to prefer short names and unusual names.
As you may have guessed, the name Noa is pronounced Noh -w- ah, much like the Western cultures say Noah. In Hawaii the name Noa symbolizes “heavenly land” but in other cultures the name means "movement". The name Noah is often associated with Noah’s Ark, the vessel in the Bible that allows Noah, his family, and all the world’s animals to escape from the flood. "Noah" was the name of an epic film released in 2014 starring award winning actor, Russell Crowe. Although this name is a masculine name in most parts of the world, for Hawaiian’s Noa is a girl’s name. Hawaiians use the word Noa frequently at the end of prayers. Its literal meaning in this case, is “free”. The western spelling was used by one of the most well known literary experts in the world. Novelist, Noah Webster was responsible for writing the first American dictionary of the English language, which was later named Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I wonder what he thought of the Hawaiian spelling?
There are many Russian, Slavic and Greek men with the name Luka, but Hawaiian’s claim that this masculine name is very traditional in their culture. They say it means, “light”, but admit that it could be a variation of the name Luke. Light has special significance to many who are born and raised in Hawaii so having the name Luka is an honour. Light comes from the sun and the sun in Hawaii is considered the “chief star above all stars”. According to ancient Hawaiian astrology, the sun is part of what is referred to as the great stars, which also include the moon and Venus. The sun was categorized as such because it was a major navigation tool many years ago. The rising of the sun in the east has the name “Hikina” and the setting in the west is named “Komohana”. Some people love the name Luka, but prefer to spell it a different way. For example, Luca and Lucca is also used.
Some historians report that the name Nemo is Latin for “nobody”; however, Hawaiian’s say it is a name that goes way back in their history and represents “smooth”. Of course, Nemo is a very familiar name today thanks to the 2003 Pixar film “Finding Nemo”, in which a little orange clownfish who ventures into the open sea, despite warnings from his father, is abducted. It is interesting that Hawaii is featured in the movie. Nemo is also the name of a song by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish. The song is about being lost and not knowing where to go or what to do. It was recorded the year after the movie “Finding Nemo” was released. Last year the name Nemo was a popular choice among new parents in the United States so at some point you will likely come across someone named Nemo. Parents who like this boy’s name tend to prefer shorter names.
In Hawaii names of places and names of people are thought to be sacred. For this reason, shortening names, making up nicknames or making fun of certain names is strongly discouraged. Since many of the Hawaiian names are short, people outside Hawaii tend to adopt those names as nicknames or pet names for those they care about. For the most part they don’t mean any disrespect. There are many Hawaiian inspired names to choose from. Parents can be assured that no matter what Hawaiian name they might choose for their baby, it will have special significance.