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Hawaiian Word of the Day: ʻIwa

January 6, 2010

ʻIwa - the Frigate bird, also referring to an attractive person... or a thief

Today’s Hawaiian word of the day is ‘iwa, or the frigate bird, one of the most famed birds of Hawai‘i.

The ʻiwa appears in the kaʻi, or entrance hula, “Hoʻopuka ka lā i ka hikina” (The Sun Rises in the East”):

Haʻa mai nā ʻiwa me Hiʻiaka.

The ʻiwa dance forth with the Goddess Hiʻiaka.

Graceful in its flight,  an ‘iwa may represent an attractive or elegant person that draws the admiration of others. This attribute is captured by the ʻōlelo noʻeau (traditional saying):

Kīkaha ka ʻiwa  i ka pali.

The ʻiwa soars to the cliff.

This is the perfect kind of thing when someone good looking catches your eye while passing by.

As the ‘iwa takes the food of other birds, the word may also refer to a thief. But this kind of metaphor isn’t solely negative. Kamehameha the First was referred honorifcally as Ka’iwakīloumoku, the Frigate Bird that Hooks the Islands Together.

The word ʻiwa also reminds of the mirroring of land, sea, and air: the ʻiwa is also a species of native Hawaiian fern.


Please note photo above is from the link below, under the Creative Commons license. / CC BY-NC 2.0
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