0402V Pronunciation #2: Macrons

Modern Hawaiian Orthography Using Macrons (Kahakō)

Welcome to the second video in the Pronunciation series. This is where you should be if you are just starting out with Hawaiian and want to understand the meaning of the bar line on top of certain vowels in written Hawaiian (for example, “manō”). We call these lines “kahakō” in Hawaiian, or “macrons” in English.

Level Check

If you have arrived here and somehow missed the first video in the Pronunciation series, please go to 0401V Pronunciation #1: The Hawaiian Alphabet.

The Macron Diacritical Marker (Kahakō)

The macron line is technically known as a diacritic or diacritical marker in English:

diacritical (di·a·crit·i·cal) marker
a mark or a sign serving to indicate a different pronunciation of a letter above or below which it is written.

Audible Examples of Kahakō

Click on either one of the speaker icons below to hear both words being pronounced one after the other. Do you hear how the second word (“lōlō”) has longer sounding vowels? Try saying them along with the reader.

lolo brain
lōlō paralyzed, numb; Fig., stupid or crazy


You can see that there are lines over each letter “o” in “lōlō”. Those are the macrons. As mentioned above, we call them “kahakō” in Hawaiian; the word is made from kaha, a mark or line + , to draw out or lengthen.

In the video below, you will learn how kahakō change the pronunciation and meaning of those words in which they appear, as well as some other facts about modern Hawaiian orthography. You will be able to practice your pronunciation by comparing pairs of words with and without kahakō. The links for the video are at the bottom of this page.

Vocabulary Used In The Video

The following section has been included in case you wish to learn the meaning of some of the words in included in the video (below). I don’t expect that you go and try to memorize all of these words; the most important thing at this point is that you practice actually saying the variations with and without kahakō. Therefore, the words are included in a box with a “disclosure triangle” which you can use to either show or hide the list. (I think the disclosure triangle defaults to being open in Firefox, however.)

Vocabulary List (click to drop down)

Words from 0402V in the order presented

kahakō macron (literally, a lengthened sound)
lanai stiff-backed (same as nanai)
lānai a veranda, porch, or deck
halau no meaning
hālau a place of learning or working (as in a hālau hula, hula school)
mala sore, as after working out or exercising too much
māla a patch of ground for planting food
kala to forgive; a type of fish with a rough skin
kālā money (from the American “dollar”; sometimes written dālā)
makaukau no meaning
mākaukau to be ready or prepared; to be capable of doing something
ahe a light breeze
āhē the sound you make when you breathe a sigh of relief
akeke no meaning
akēkē possibly a type of puffer fish
aue tall or far apart (essentially unused today)
auē1 the sound you make when you say “gosh”, “oh my”, “alas”, etc.
hanapepe a common mispronunciation of the place name
Hanapēpē a place on Kauaʻi (lit, hana+pēpē, crushing bay)
aui no meaning
auī2 the sound you make when hurt, like “ouch!”
hakali no meaning
hakalī a spot high up in the air
hihi to entwine, as a vine; to be infatuated with someone
hihī no meaning
noki no meaning
nōkī deep inside something
lo no meaning
an earwig (insect)
lupo a wolf (from Latin lupus or Greek lukos)
lūpō possibly same as ulupō, dark color of dense forest growth
mano many (about 4000)
manō a shark
pohano no meaning
pōhānō wheezing (from hānō, asthma or similar problem)
pupu smallness, either actual or imputed to convey affection, scorn, etc. (cf. “wee” in Scottish)
pūpū a shell; something small to eat (like an appetizer)
malu shade or protection
malū underhanded or secretive (as in doing something bad)
kuhuluku no meaning
kūhulukū “goosepimples” or “chicken skin”
kupu to sprout out of the ground, as a plant
kūpū to gel or thicken, as a sauce or gravy (cf. mākū)


  • 1. the word “auē” is often written “auwe” or “auwē”, but we should not continue this practice, because it is not possible to ever say “auvē” (with the V sound). The word contains a “w-glide” which American missionaries wrote using a “w” because that’s how they were used to writing such things. There are several words of this type in Hawaiian.
  • 2. as with “auē” above, you may see this written with a “w-glide” as “auwi” or “auwī”. It is never possible, however, to say “auvī”, so we must drop this artifact of English-American spelling.

Next Steps

Following this video is 0402P Pronunciation Practice for Kahakō which will allow you to practice distinguishing similar pairs of words both with and without kahakō. Then, you should move on to the next video in this Series, 0403V Pronunciation #3: The Glottal Stop all about what we call the ʻokina.

If you wish to see a listing of all the content in the 0400 Series on Pronunciation, please find it here.

Video Outline

  1. Markings over letters
  2. The Macron (Kahakō)
  3. Examples
  4. Practice

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Two comments on “0402V Pronunciation #2: Macrons
  1. For the lesson in the Kahako, you should tell us what all the words mean instead of only some of the words. This way we can improve our vocabulary and pronunciation.

    • Mahalo for your thought, Emilio! I wanted to keep the lesson as tightly focused on the pronunciation of the words as possible and not add in the meaning of the words, which I felt might increase the “mental load” of the lesson. That being said, however, your comment made me realize that of course it would be great to put all the meanings of those words onto the video page associated with the lesson! Why not indeed! So I thank you for your comment, and I will put those words up as soon as I get the chance. Aloha to you! (This has been done; see the vocabulary section in the main lesson.)

Pane mai

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