The Four Most Important Hawaiian Words for Rain

by Keolu

Uē ka lani, ola ka honua  –  “Heaven weeps, the earth lives”

(ʻōlelo noʻeau, Hawaiian proverb and saying)

Rain in Hawaiian Culture and Your Daily Life

For Hawaiians, the natural world is deeply interwoven with human life.  Elements like rain, mist, and winds are not just weather phenomena but are expressions of the natural world communicating the mood or state of the environment.

Hawaiians learned and cataloged nature’s patterns over lifetimes of observation.  The rain informed Hawaiians when to plant, harvest, fish, build, travel, celebrate, sail or take shelter.

Here are four important Hawaiian words for rain that you can use in your daily life regardless of where you live.

Uhiwai - Fog and Mist

Uhiwai is fog or mist.

Uhiwai is the beautiful mist that floats against the slopes of the Koʻolau Mountains.  Uhiwai is the cold fog on Saddle Road that makes you turn on your headlights in the middle of the day.  It’s the steamy smoke that rises up off of the hot asphalt after a quick unexpected summer rain.

Kilihune - Light Drizzle

Kilihune is a gentle rain and light drizzle.  If kilihune is ma kai (near the ocean) then it can be refreshing.  If kilihune is ma uka (inland) it can be chilling and cold.

Kilihune is the beautiful drizzle that forms the rainbows in Mānoa.  It’s the kind of rain that makes you wish your windshield wipers had an even slower intermittent setting.  It’s the stuff that when walking to your car will make you walk a little faster but not run.  It’s the type of very light rain that makes you think you should have just left your jacket back in the car because now you’re too hot.  It’s the kind of drizzle where you might still need to wear your sunglasses.

Ua - The General Word for Rain and a Moderate Volume of Rain

Ua is the general word for rain but also the description of a moderate volume of rain falling.

It’s the kind of rain that makes you decide to take a jacket when leaving your house – and later still glad that you did.  It’s the word for rain that if you used it to describe just about any kind of rain, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Ua Loku - Drenching Rain

Ua loku is a drenching downpour of rain.  When you are in it – you know it.

Ua loku is the type of rain that you will absolutely wait for it to stop before running across the parking lot to your car.  It’s the amount of rain that makes it difficult to see the painted lanes on the road.  It’s the volume of rain that even people from Hilo don’t want to drive through – yeah, that much rain.  It’s the kind of rain that most people in Hawaiʻi don’t own the right jacket for.  It’s the stuff that makes you get out of bed in the middle of the night and check the windows.

Rain and Home

Rain holds significant importance in Hawaiian traditions and mythology. It is often associated with fertility, growth, and life. 

In all its forms, rain sustains the rich biodiversity of Hawaiʻi.  It provides moisture for plants, supports agriculture, and contributes to the overall health of the ecosystem.

I hope you make it a point to use these four Hawaiian words for rain in your daily life.  And when you do, it reminds you of home.

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