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Hawaiian Word of the Day: Uli

January 9, 2010

uli - any dark color, including the black of dark cloudsa

Today’s Hawaiian word of the day is uli, a word with a rich depth of meaning.

Uli can refer to any dark color from the black of dark clouds to the blue of the deep ocean to the verdant green of cliffs. Even the dark color of a bruise, such as a black eye, can be described as uli. The reduplicated word uliuli describes color more directly.

According to the Hawaiian Dictionary, uli is sometimes avoided in poetic compositions as Uli is also the name of a goddess of sorcery. Keeping in line with the metaphysical, uli is also short ʻōuli, or omen.

uli, as in the green of the cliffs | Koʻolau Range, Oʻahu

However, uli is not a negative word in the end. For instance, it forms part of the name Paliuli, or Green Cliff, literally, a mythical land of joy and home of Lāʻieikawai.

In more mundane matters, uli can also refer to the act of steering a canoe or a variety of Hawaiian sweet potato.


  • Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary

Please note photos above are from the links below, under the Creative Commons license. / CC BY 2.0 / CC BY-NC 2.0
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