Since the first book is set in Hawaii, there are quite a few terms that Mainland readers may not be familiar with. Below is a glossary to help you out. I'll add to it as the other books are also published. If there's something you're confused about and you don't find it here, please email me at

Glossary (from all books)

501(c)(3) – the designation of an organization that has been approved by the IRS to be a non-profit.
Alii – Hawaiian nobility
Ahi tuna – Yellowfin tuna; makes great sashimi
Akamai – smart
Arigato – Japanese for “thank you”

Assets School – a special school for gifted and/or dyslexic children that helps them become lifelong learners through non-standard educational techniques. For more information, go to

Auto Acres – a non-profit in Kapolei, Hawaii. They accept donations of vehicles which they sell to the public. The proceeds from the sales go to support Christian ministries.

Auwe – an exclamation of dismay; “Oh, no!”

Bachan – grandma

Bachi – loosely means “you get what you say”

BOLO - copspeak, Be On the Look Out; used to be called an APB (All Points Bulletin)
Brah - short for “braddah,” not just a male sibling, but any male, especially a friend of similar age or younger. Older males will usually be called uncle or tata (but not used as often as tutu for females).
Brok’ da mout’ - a particularly delicious food

Bumbai – by-and-by

Chicken skin - called “goose bumps” on most of the Mainland

Chivary – a post-wedding reception party; a long cherished wedding tradition in many places in the Midwest and the West. It was once a surprise party a few weeks after the wedding, with lots of noise and often kidnapping the bride. Now when a chivary is held, it’s well planned and occurs after the reception, often at the bride’s parents’ home.

Choke – in pidgin it means “a lot”

Cockaroach – steal

Cracks – to hit, as in physical discipline

Daikon – Japanese radish; large, long and white
Directions in Hawaii - directions are told by local landmarks not points of the compass. Everywhere on the islands, mauka (mountains) and makai (ocean) are used as two points in the Hawaii “compass” and they are always opposite each other like north and south are. The other points change based on where you are. In Honolulu, you can go “Diamond Head” in a generally eastward direction between the mountains and the ocean or you can go “Ewa.” Diamond Head is the distinctive tuft volcano to the east and Ewa is the major town on the leeward coast. If you are in Ewa, the directions that cross mauka and makai are “town” and “Waianae.” In Kailua, they’re “Waimanalo” and “Kaneohe.”In Hilo, you can go ‘Volcano’ in a generally southward direction between the mountains and the ocean or you can go ‘Hamakua’ which is north.

Dissed – slang for disrespected.

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) - one of the ‘date rape’ drugs. It causes drowsiness, nausea, memory loss and makes it difficult to respond to an assault. Can interrupt breathing, cause unconsciousness or even coma if taken in too high a dose.

GK Concordance – Goodrick/Kohlenberger Commentary, includes not just an index of all the words in the bible, but cross references them with the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek from the original translation. You can get them for almost any version of the bible. Greg happens to use the NIV version because that’s his primary translation.

Grinds – food

Guaranz ballbaranz – guaranteed

(Luke) Guys - the pidgin way to say “Luke and his family”

Haka – a Hawaiian war dance

Halau - a Hawaiian dance troupe, particularly hula but for many local churches it also includes sign dance

Hale – house

Hana hou – encore

Hanai – adopted, either formally or through fostering

Haole - technically means “stranger” or “foreigner” but has come to mean a white person
Hapa - half; usually a person of mixed ancestry, e.g. Japanese and haole
Hashi – chopsticks
Haupia - a creamy coconut desert
Honu - Hawaiian sea turtle
Huhu - grouchy

Ichiban – number one

Jan ken po – the rock-paper-scissors game

Kalabash – claiming relatives where there is no formal blood or marriage connection; e.g. your longtime neighbors maybe claimed as your aunty and uncle

Kalua pig – a dish somewhat like pulled pork but super good. It’s a little salty with a smoky flavor. Originally the whole pig was wrapped in banana and/or ti leaves and roasted for a minimum of five hours in an imu, an underground pit. Now there are crock pot recipes, just add smoke flavor.

Kamaaina - local people, particularly those born and raised in Hawaii
Kapakahi – bent, crooked, messed up
Kapu - forbidden
Keiki - children
Kii - small wooden statue, probably an idol in ancient times
Kine (da kine) - kind, kind of. Da kine is also a general catch-all word when the specific word escapes you. “Did you get da kine?” Amazingly, most locals very easily figure out what is being talked about

Koa – a native Hawaii tree. The most valuable wood in Hawaii, it has a beautiful reddish brown wood, with a curly grain.

Koi – an ornamental fish, very popular in Hawaii

Kolohe – mischievous, rascal

Kona winds – southwesterly winds, they usually bring muggy weather.

Kupuna – wise ones, like grandparents
Lanai - balcony

Lei – a garland, usually flowers, used in greetings, as thank you’s and for congratulations

Liliha Bakery coco puffs – are real and as ono as Greg remembers! Next time you’re in Honolulu, check them out at the bakery on Kuakini Street just Ewa of Liliha Street.

Lolo - someone not too bright, even a little crazy
Lomi salmon - a local salted salmon dish
Lumpia - a Filipino egg roll. The wrapper has a slightly different texture and the fillings are a little different too. The most common fillings are ground pork or banana.
Mahalo - thank you
Makai - ocean
Make (pronounced mah-kay) - dead
Malihini - newcomer, especially one who knows nothing about Hawaiian culture
Mana - power
Manini - little
Mauka - mountains
Melicious - (mom-ism) extraordinarily delicious
Menehune - Hawaiian little people, kind of like Irish leprechauns
Miso soup – Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans combined with grains. Miso soup is usually made with white miso paste which uses rice. The soup is often a clear broth with bits of tofu and dried seaweed.

Moemoe – to sleep; just like in English, it can also be a euphemism for having sexual intercourse

Monku - grumble
Musubi - Japanese rice balls. In Hawaii it has come to mean a block of sushi rice (rice, vinegar and sugar) with a piece of meat on top, usually Spam, and a strip of nori (seaweed in sheets) wrapped around it
Niephew - (mom-ism) niece or nephew
Nigiri – a block of sushi rice (made by adding vinegar and sugar to cooked rice) draped with meat, usually raw fish
Nori – green sheets of dried, compressed seaweed; primarily used as a sushi wrap
Ohana - family

Okole – buttocks

Omiyage - gifts, usually food, presented to family, friends and co-workers after a trip
Ono - delicious

Opala – rubbish

Pakalolo - marijuana
Pau - done, finished

Pau hana – end of work, quitting time. On Oahu from 3-5 PM, traffic is particularly heavy, especially going Ewa.

PTS – Post Traumatic Stress. No it’s not a typo. Heather wasn’t talking about PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s the more severe form that often interfers with a person’s ability to live any kind of a normal life.

Puka – a hole

Salt & Light aloha wear - the shirts Gloria gives Steve for his birthday (Chapter 22) are real. Go to to see them.
Sashimi – thinly sliced raw fish; often served with shredded daikon, shoyu and wasabi
Shaka - wave showing the back of the hand with the thumb and pinkie finger extended and the other three curled toward the palm

Shave ice – much like snow cones, but the ice is shaved instead of crushed

Shishi – to urinate

Shiso (or chiso) – a mint-like herb; sashimi is sometimes served on a bed of shiso and shredded daikon
Shoyu – soy sauce
Sistah - not just a female sibling, but any female, especially a friend of similar age or younger. Older females will usually be called aunty or tutu.

Soteriology – The study of the theology of salvation. Calvinism and Arminianism are the two primary beliefs.

Stink eye - glare at someone

Talk story – having a chatty conversation.

The Shepherd of the Hills – by Harold Bell Wright, published in 1907; an inspirational novel set in the Ozarks of Missouri.

Trade winds – the prevailing northeasterly winds in Hawaii. They are cooling breezes that keep the temperature and humidity at bearable levels most of the time.

Try wait – in Hawaiian pidgin “wait” is rarely used as a stand-alone word. Usually it’s “try wait” – something like “back up a second,” or “wait wait wait” (sounds more like “way-way-wayt” with a very soft t-sound) – something like “hold your horses.”

Uku – Greg’s small kid time name for Luke. It was the best he could do when he first started talking. Unfortunately, it means “head lice.”

Ume candy – a sweet and salty candy. Hard candy around a dried salted plum

Vog – volcanic fog; actually more of a haze that comes with Kona winds and brings the volcanic pollution that had initially drifted out to sea with the trade winds. When the winds shift and the Kona winds come, the vog is blown back across the islands to make life miserable for people with breathing problems.

Wahine – woman

Wasabi – a Japanese root much like horseradish. Usually comes as a green paste

Wikiwiki – quickly



This site is © Cheryl Okimoto 2010, All Rights Reserved


If you're on Oahu, you can get my books at Logos Bookstore, 760 Halekauwila Street, Honolulu.

Wherever you are you can also email me to get books. I ship (book rate) at $20/softcover book, $35/hardcover or you can follow the link below to order directly from my publisher.


My New Blog

My Old Blog - technological difficulties on my part caused me to no longer be able to write on my old blog, but it's still there.