Gorgeous view of the ocean with some cliffs and mountains on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Real Meaning of Mahalo in Hawaii

If you go to Hawaii, you will often hear the word Mahalo. Aside from aloha, mahalo is the most used Hawaiian word. But what is the meaning of mahalo?

Mahalo translates to “thank you” in English, but its meaning goes beyond that. It expresses gratitude and appreciation for something special that was given or done. It’s a way of showing respect and acknowledging someone’s actions — a kind of thankfulness that goes beyond words.

How to Pronounce Mahalo

Mahalo is pronounced like “mah-hah-low.” It has three syllables, the first being the most emphasized.

Showing Gratitude in Hawaii 

In Hawaii, you will see mahalo all around you — from signs welcoming visitors to words exchanged between locals and tourists. Mahalo is everywhere! By saying mahalo and expressing gratitude, you are showing respect to the people of Hawaii and its culture.

How to Repond to Mahalo

The most popular response to Mahalo is Aloha, which has multiple meanings, including hello, goodbye, love, peace, compassion, and more. 

But you can also respond with “‘a’ ole pilikia ” which translates to “no problem” or “you’re welcome.” 

Most locals will not care how you respond, so feel free to say whatever feels natural to you. As long as you respect the islands and the people, you should be fine! 

Should You Say Mahalo or Aloha?

It’s important to remember that mahalo and aloha have different meanings. If you want to express gratitude and say “thank you” in Hawaiian, you should say “mahalo.” 

If you want to greet someone or bid them farewell while embodying the spirit of love, compassion, and unity, you should say “aloha.” Both words are significant in Hawaiian culture and can be used in different situations.

Side note: Looking to learn more Hawaiian words? Read our post about the meaning of ohana.

What is The Meaning of Mahalo Nui Loa

“Mahalo Nui Loa” is a Hawaiian phrase that translates to “Thank you very much” in English. It is an extended and more emphatic way of expressing gratitude and appreciation.

Let’s break down the meaning of each component of the phrase:

  1. Mahalo: As mentioned before, “mahalo” means “thank you” or “gratitude.” It is a common word used to express appreciation in Hawaiian.
  2. Nui: “Nui” means “big” or “much.” It emphasizes the intensity or extent of the gratitude being expressed.
  3. Loa: “Loa” translates to “long” or “lengthy.” In this context, it emphasizes the depth or magnitude of the gratitude.

Therefore, when you say “Mahalo Nui Loa,” you express sincere and profound appreciation beyond a simple “thank you.” It conveys a sense of deep gratitude and acknowledges the significance of the person or gesture you are grateful for.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are visiting the islands or just looking to learn a bit more about Hawaiian culture, understanding the meaning of mahalo is important. Mahalo is an important part both in Hawai’i and around the world — it’s a way to show appreciation for those around you and build relationships with those near and far.