0604V Memeʻa Content Words

Video about ʻAʻano, Kikino, Hamani, and Hehele

Please take your time to soak in all the info in this 22 minute video about memeʻa words, which I explain in eight steps. The basic idea is that the memeʻa is a "container structure" for four different types of words: ʻaʻano, kikino, hamani, and hehele (in no particular order). These kinds of words are explained below.

To fully understand the terms used in the video, make sure you have seen at least 0601V The Kaʻi Determiners #1: He and 0602V The Kaʻi Determiners #2: Ka, Ke. Those two videos will help you out as an introduction to building the two-word phrases shown in the video.


This is my favourite kind of word in Hawaiian. I think the ʻaʻano are just so powerful and when used properly really show how Hawaiian thinking in sentence construction is different from that of the English language. You'll learn lots more about that later on. For now, it will be important to know just what we mean when we say that a word is an ʻaʻano.

The ʻaʻano are equivalent to adjectives and adverbs in English. They describe a state or a condition of something. Some examples are shown below.

hauʻoli happy
kaumaha sad or heavy
pōloli hungry
makewai thirsty
huʻihuʻi cold (temperature of a thing)
anuanu cold (the feeling of being cold)
wela hot
ʻenaʻena burning hot (as a fire)

The word " ʻaʻano " was invented by kumu Pila Wilson based on the word " ʻano " which is an old Hawaiian word. The ʻano of something is its condition, its nature, or its manner. The best definition, of course, comes from the Pūkuʻi-Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary:


1. n. Kind, variety, nature, character, disposition, bearing, type, brand, likeness, sort, way, manner, shape, tendency, fashion, style, mode, circumstance, condition, resemblance, image, color, moral quality, denomination, meaning (preceded by ke).

Pukui-Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary (1985)


The kikino are similar to common nouns. Thus things like cars, a bike, a person, dog, cat, spirit, water, canoe, and so on. Some examples are shown below.

keiki child
makua parent
kupuna grandparent
moʻopuna grandchild
kaʻa car
waʻa canoe
mokulele airplane
ʻuhane spirit
manaʻo thought
wai water
ua rain

Kumu Pila made this word using the base "kino" and partially reduplicating it: kino means a form, a body, a shape, the material part of something, and many other meanings.


The hamani are action verbs, and more specifically can be said to be transitive action verbs in English. Examples could be to eat, to speak, to bring, and to buy. Transitive verbs are those which are followed by an object: we eat something; we speak something; we bring something; we buy something; and so on. Of course it is possible to leave out the object if one desires, as it may be obvious, or previously understood in context, or for many other reasons. But even if left off and not stated explicitly, the object is still in the mind of the speaker or listener. For example, if one were to say, "She ate." we are still thinking that she obviously ate something.

So these hamani verbs are transitive verbs and act the same way in Hawaiian as in English. Here are some common examples:

ʻai to eat
inu to drink
lawe to bring or take
kiʻi to fetch, to get
hāʻawi to give
haʻalele to leave somewhere
hoʻokani to play a musical instrument
pāʻani to play around, play a game
heluhelu to read
ʻōlelo to speak, to say


The hehele are also action verbs, like hamani, but in this case they do not take an object and are therefore called intransitive verbs, since their actions do not "transit" onto anything. To run, to walk, to smile, to sleep, and to arrive are all examples of intransitive action verbs, or hehele in Hawaiian grammar. Following are some examples:

noho to sit
moe to lie down
ala to get up, to arise
hiki to arrive
hele to walk
holo to run
ʻau to swim to a destination
ʻauʻau to swim for fun, to bathe
to cry
minoʻaka to smile

Kumu Pila created this grammar term from the word "hele" meaning to walk or go somewhere on two legs. Of course, "to walk" (hele) is an intransitive verb, so using it as the basis for hehele was a clever way to help us remember what kind of verbs hehele actually are!

So What Are Memeʻa Words?

Finally, we arrive at this new term "memeʻa". Kumu Pila created this word from the Tongan (and Proto Polynesian) word "meʻa" which means a "thing" and is the same as our modern Hawaiian word "mea". He partially reduplicated it to create this brand new word "memeʻa" which is really just a catch-all for any ʻaʻano, kikino, hamani, or hehele. The reason we want to use this term "memeʻa" will become abundantly clear when we start making simple phrases and notice that one of the most common types of constructions are kaʻi + memeʻa, as explained in the video below.

Learn More About Parts Of Speech

If you would like to see the reference article which compares English and Hawaiian grammar terms, including the parts of speech mentioned above, take a look at R0699: Glossary of Hawaiian Parts of Speech.

The Purpose Of This Video

The reason we want to know about memeʻa is for the simple purpose of being able to generalize about an extremely common combination of words in Hawaiian: the kaʻi + memeʻa sequence. It will be imperative for you to be able to recognize and construct quickly these kaʻi + memeʻa sequences in order to speak Hawaiian and decode Hawaiian spoken to you. Luckily, the kaʻi + memeʻa is an easy one to master, and this video gets us on our way!

Next Steps

The video I suggest you watch after this one is V0605 Iʻoa-type Words (proper nouns). Understanding these common types of words will help you to grasp the 0800-series of videos about the many types of Pepeke (sentence strucures) in Hawaiian.

You should already know what a kaʻi is; if you do not, then start at V0601 The Kaʻi, Part I.

aloha nui!

Video Outline

  1. About systematic categorization of words
  2. Memeʻa as a "container"
  3. Four types of words called "memeʻa"
  4. ʻAʻano
  5. Kikino
  6. Hamani
  7. Hehele
  8. Kaʻi + Memeʻa sequences

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