Memeʻa Content Words

Learn about ʻAʻano, Kikino, Hamani, and Hehele — Video Lesson 0604V


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.

Level Check

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 this video.

Immediately preceding this video lesson was 0603V The Kaʻi “Kekahi” which you should be sure to study after this lesson if you have not done so already.


The general category of words we call “memeʻa” is arguably the most important set of words to acqure as a second-language learner of any language, Hawaiian included of course. They are the common nouns, the adjectives, and the transitive and intransitive action verbs. These comprise the main set of “content” words we use to both encode and decode thoughts in spoken and written language, in contrast to the “glue” words we use to stick everything together into long strings of sound and text.

There are other important sets of words of course, including pronouns (papani) and special Hawaiian locational proper nouns (iʻoahenua) which you will learn about later. But compared to the memeʻa class of words, the papani and iʻoahenua classes contain very few words and are much more easily memorized.

So let us start with a look at the four kinds of words that are grouped into the memeʻa class.


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 are also called “stative verbs” in some texts because they show a state or condition: in the Pūkuʻi-Elbert Hawaiian dictionary, you will see them labeled as “vs” (verb-stative) for this reason. Some examples are shown below.

kaumahasad or heavy
huʻihuʻicold (temperature of a thing)
anuanucold (the feeling of being cold)
ʻenaʻenaburning 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, a thought, a word, and so on. Some examples are shown below.

ke keikithe child
ka makuathe parent
ke kupunathe grandparent
ka moʻopunathe grandchild
ke kaʻathe car
ka waʻathe canoe
ka mokulelethe airplane
ka ʻuhanethe spirit
ka manaʻothe thought
ka waithe water
ka uathe rain

Be careful not to include names in this kikino category as we might wont to do if we just think of the common definition for “noun” in English as a “person, place, or thing.” What are called “proper nouns” in English (people’s names for example) are classed as “iʻoa” in Hawaiian, and we will learn about them in the next lesson. So in this case, the kikino might best be described as the class of words that are simply common nouns.

We also cannot always substitute a kikino with a pronoun as we can in English, since I believe that the Hawaiian word “it” is not a pronoun (it is the kaʻi determiner “ia”), and we should only use pronouns for people or anthropomorphized things in Hawaiian. This is a big problem in modern Hawaiian, in my opinion: native speakers of English speaking Hawaiian quickly and improperly substitute common nouns with pronouns, as in “The books are on the table. They are new books,” being improperly spoken as “Aia nā puke ma ke pākaukau. He mau puke hou lākou.” It would be better to simply say “He mau puke hou” and stop right there because we should leave out words like “it” and “they” as much as possible when referring to aforementioned items in Hawaiian language.

Kumu Pila made the word kikino using the base word “kino” (body, shape, or form) and partially reduplicating it.


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. 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” and we notice her staring at an empty plate, we would still be thinking that she obviously ate something.

Another way to think of hamani, or indeed transitive verbs in general, is that if you don’t feel that the verb takes an object per se, something at least receives the verb’s action, whether named or not. Consider the following examples: to fill in a form, to hit a ball, or to organize your desk.

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

ʻaito eat
inuto drink
laweto bring or take
kiʻito fetch, to get
hāʻawito give
haʻaleleto leave somewhere
hoʻokanito play a musical instrument
pāʻanito play with something, play a game
heluheluto read
ʻōleloto 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:

nohoto sit
moeto lie down
alato get up, to arise
hikito arrive
heleto walk
holoto run
ʻauto swim to a destination
ʻauʻauto swim for fun, to bathe
to cry
minoʻakato 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!

Words In Multiple Categories

Once in a while, we run across words which can be used in multiple categories. Let us not overly concern ourselves with this at this time, since it will only really apply when we are focusing on how to use these memeʻa in creative ways in the language. Here, however, are some examples: “pāʻani” (she plays around, or she plays a game – hehele or hamani); ” ʻai ” (she eats in order to survive, or she eats Hawaiian food – hehele and hamani); “kū” (she stopped at the gate, she stopped the car, or she was poked by something – hehele, hamani, or ʻaʻano); “wahine” (she is a woman, she became a woman, or she is femininekikino, hehele, or ʻaʻano); and many more.

Summary / Wrap Up

We are learning about this new term “memeʻa”. Kumu Pila created the 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 is 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 0699R A 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 0605V Iʻoa Proper Nouns #1. Understanding these common types of words will help you to get to the 0800 Series of videos about the many types of phrase structures (pepeke) in Hawaiian.

me ke aloha (ma ke ʻano he kikino a he hamani hoʻi)
with aloha (as both a kikino and hamani)
– Kaliko

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

Length: 22 minutes

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