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What are the meanings behind some common Hawaiian names?

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Quick Answer

Many Hawaiian names have meanings that refer to nature, such as Kai, which means "sea," and Leilani, which means "heavenly flowers." Examples of common male names in Hawaii that derive from the Hawaiian language are Keanu, Kainoa and Koa. Some common female Hawaiian names are Malia, Kailani and Hilina'i.

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Kai was tied for 38th place among male baby names in Hawaii in 2014, thus making it the most popular male name of Hawaiian origin in the state of Hawaii. Keanu means "the cool breeze" and derives from the Hawaiian word for "coolness." The actor Keanu Reeves popularized the name in American culture. Kainoa means "sea of freedom" in Hawaiian, while Koa comes from the Hawaiian word for "warrior."

In addition to "heavenly flowers," Leilani can also mean "royal child" in Hawaiian. The name was tied for 50th place among female baby names in Hawaii in 2014, making it the most popular female name of Hawaiian origin in that year. The name Leilani is also known for being in the title of a Bing Crosby song.

Malia is a Hawaiian variant of Mary; one of President Barack Obama's daughters bears this name. Kailani means "heavenly sea" in Hawaiian. Hilina'i is the Hawaiian word for "trust."

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