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Hawaiian Baby Names

Hawaiian names are becoming more widely used in the US in recent years, especially for girls. Names ending in -lani are particularly popular, thanks to the resurgence of the name Leilani. It’s even inspired parents to create pseudo-Hawaiian names for their daughters, such as Jenni “JWOWW” Farley did for her daughter Meilani.

As the world gets smaller, parents in the mainland US and beyond become more familiar with Hawaiian names. Two important influences: the presidency of Barack Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii and whose oldest daughter Malia bore a Hawaiian name, and the Disney animated film Moana.

Along with Leilani and Malia, other Hawaiian names in the US Top 1000 include Kehlani, Alani, Kailani, Kaia, Nalani, Koa, Kai, and Keanu. Hawaiian names that are uniquely popular in Hawaii itself include Kalea, Makena, and Mahina for girls, and Kaimana and Nakoa for boys.

Hawaiian names are known for their rhythmicity, significant meanings, and evocative beauty. If you're looking for a Hawaiian name for your baby, consider these choices for both girls and boys.

Hawaiian Names for Babies
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KaiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "sea"
  • Description:

    Kai has many origins, but in the US is most commonly referred to as being of Hawaiian derivation, meaning “sea.” In Europe, Kai is largely considered to have Frisian origin as a diminutive of the name Kaimbe, meaning “warrior.” Kai is also found as an independent name in African, Chinese, Turkish and Native American cultures.

KaiaHeart

  • Origin:

    to rejoice
  • Description:

    The new Maia, the next Kayla, Kaia has been on the charts since the year 2000. You might see it as a female form of the also-rising Kai, which means sea in Hawaiian and is sometimes used for girls as well, or as a Kardashianization of the ancient goddess name Caia.

KaneHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "warrior"
  • Description:

    A name of multiple identities: a somewhat soap-operatic single-syllable surname, a homonym for the biblical bad boy Cain, and, when found in Japan and Hawaii, it transforms into the two syllable KA-neh. Kane also has multiple meanings: in Welsh, it's "beautiful"; in Japanese, "golden"; and in Hawaiian, "man of the Eastern sky."

LeilaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "a heavenly flower"
  • Description:

    Leilani is derived from the Hawaiian elements lei, meaning “flower,” and lani, “heavenly.” It can also be translated as “royal child,” as lani is connected to high-birth and aristocracy, and leis—flower garlands worn around the neck—are associated with children. “Sweet Leilani” is an Academy Award-winning song by Bing Crosby.

KeanuHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "cool breeze over the mountains"
  • Description:

    An evocatively exotic name brought from Hawaii to the mainland by Keanu Reeves, who was born in Beirut to a part-Hawaiian, part-Chinese father. It moved into the Top 1000 for the first time in over a decade in 2016.
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KoaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "warrior"
  • Description:

    With Noah taking the Number 1 spot in 2013, Koa is attracting more attention than ever.

LiliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian
  • Meaning:

    "lily"
  • Description:

    One of a group of pretty double L names, Lilia is more unusual and distinctive than some others. Truly cross-cultural, the lilting Lilia is heard in the Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, and Hawaiian communities and would be a good choice for a child born to parents of different ethnicities.

NaiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian, Greek, Basque
  • Meaning:

    "dolphin; to flow; wave, sea foam"
  • Description:

    Multicultural option, equally exotic as, but more unusual than, Maia.

MaliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Makes Grandma Mary or Maria's name fresh and modern. A fairly unusual name made more familiar by one of Barack and Michelle Obama's young daughters.

KailaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "sea and sky"
  • Description:

    This name's similarity to Kalani and pretty Hawaiian origin helped catapult it into the Top 1000 for the first time in 2013.
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MoanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Maori or Samoan
  • Meaning:

    "deep ocean or sea"
  • Description:

    This Maori name, often heard in New Zealand, is an exotic, evocative choice for a sea lover made famous -- perhaps too famous -- by the Disney heroine. Moana was also an alternate name for the heroine Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth. Moana may also be a color name for a deep ocean blue ("lanu moana").

AlaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "orange tree"
  • Description:

    One of those names you may not even be aware of if you haven't been paying attention to recent naming trends, Alani was given to more than 700 baby girls in the US in one recent year, to be the second most popular feminization of Alan after Alana. It's certainly the most exotic and modern-sounding female version of Alan.

KamalaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi or Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "lotus or pale red; or, a garden"
  • Description:

    A multicultural name that manages to sound soft and strong at the same time, Kamala is also another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

LiloHeart

  • Origin:

    German, diminutive of Liselotte; Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "generous one"
  • Description:

    Lilo is the name of the spunky little Hawaiian girl character in the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch-- and is also Lindsay Lohan's nickname. Multi-cultural, it can be found in Hawaiian, German and Hebrew nomenclature.

KalaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "the heavens"
  • Description:

    Kalani is a rhythmic name that can be used for either gender though feels more feminine in the contemporary culture. It only just entered the US Top 1000 for the first time in 2015.
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HokuHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "night of the full moon"
  • Description:

    Like a large proportion of traditional Hawaiian names, Hoku can be used for both girls and boys.

AniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful"
  • Description:

    Folk singer DiFranco popularized this simple, appealing form.

NalaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "calm skies"
  • Description:

    Evocative of tranquil island escapes. One of several Hawaiian (and pseudo-Hawaiian) names ending in "-ani" that's soaring in popularity, Nalani made its debut on the US Top 1000 in 2016.

KalaHeart

  • Origin:

    Tamil; Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "Virtue; princess"

NoelaniHeart

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NakoaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "brave one"
  • Description:

    Nakoa is a Top 100 name for boys in Hawaii. It became more widely known after actors Lisa Bonet and Jason Mamoa chose it for their son.

HaliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "remembrance of a loved one"
  • Description:

    Adds the element of Pacific island rhythm.

AlikaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "truthful; most beautiful"
  • Description:

    Alika is a multicultural choice that's far off the beaten track.

MaluHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    Malu is a charming Hawaiian name chosen by ex-Talking Head David Byrne for his daughter. Malu might also be an abbreviated form of Malou, which is an abbreviated form of Mary Louise. Malu or Malou might be a retro-chic nickname for a child given the family names of Mary and/or Louise.

AilaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "chief"
  • Description:

    Lilting and lovely. Entered the US Top 1000 for the first time in 2016.
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KaleaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "joy, happiness"
  • Description:

    Kalea is a Top 100 name for girls in Hawaii. Sources differ on the meaning of the name, but the most authoritative land on joy or happiness...though kalea is also the Hawaiian word for orgasm.

KalaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "the heavens"
  • Description:

    This name is one of the hot new spiritual names for both sexes. In Hawaiian it means "chieftain of the sky" or "spirit of the sky,"and is extremely popular for boys.

MauiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Description:

    The name of the second-biggest (and third-most populous) island in Hawaii was one of the fastest-rising boys' names of 2017. A major factor was surely Dwayne Johnson's character in Moana, a demigod named Maui.

LikoHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "leaf bud"
  • Description:

    A nature name from the Hawaiian islands that's vaguely reminiscent of trendy names like Luke and Luca. However, it's also the name of a Swedish company that makes mechanical lifts used in medical settings to move mobility-impaired patients.
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KeahiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "flames"
  • Description:

    Hawaiian names are having a moment, and this one, despite its strong meaning, is relatively undiscovered. The pronunciation may not be immediately obvious, but it didn't hurt Keanu Reeves.

IolaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "hawk of royalty"
  • Description:

    Iolani feels quintessentially Hawaiian, a stylish origin for baby names these days thanks to Malia, the Hawaiian name of the Obamas' older daughter. The initial I is pronounced with a long e sound, as in Waikiki, and the name Iolani has four syllables.

MakaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "wind"
  • Description:

    The sources that do list this name give it as a boys' name, but Woody Harrelson chose it for his daughter, and it does have a feminine lilt.

MakoaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "brave man"
  • Description:

    One of the most popular native language names for boys in Hawaii, Makoa joins Nakoa and Koa as Hawaiian boys' names finding a wider audience in the US.

NoheaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "handsome"
  • Description:

    Any name that means handsome has something going for it, though this would cause some head-scratching.
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HaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "joyful"
  • Description:

    Sweet multicultural name.

MaileHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian nature name
  • Description:

    Exotic and appealing name -- a maile is a vine used to make leis -- getting noticed via writer Maile Meloy. It's pronounced ala Miley, as in Cyrus.

MakalaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "myrtle,"
  • Description:

    There are so many variations of this name in circulation, it makes it hard for any of them to feel as special as they might.
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AlaniHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "orange tree"
  • Description:

    A name known in several cultures.

MakeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian version of Mateo
  • Description:

    Makeo is a rare name, which peaked in usage in the USA in 2012, when it was given to six little boys. Despite this rarity, its similarity to names like Mateo (to which it is related), Arlo, etc. means it is ripe for a spike in popularity.

KaimanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "the power of the ocean"
  • Description:

    This Hawaiian name gracefully celebrates the force of nature, paying tribute to the ocean. If you're looking for unique names that mean ocean, this should be on your short list.

MakaioHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian form of Matthew
  • Description:

    An interesting international form of a biblical classic, containing the cool "Kai" sound.

HanaleiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "crescent bay or garland valley"
  • Description:

    An appealing Hawaiian name which belongs to a town, river and bay on Kauaʻi island in Hawaii. The two possible meanings of the name, "crescent bay" or "garland (lei) valley" both describe the beauty of the place.
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KalenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian or Danish variation of Katherine or Karen
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Kalena is one of those names that has a pleasant-if-synthetic feel. Research turns up a range of origins and meanings, but the most reliable peg it as a derivation of Katherine.

KainoaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "the namesake"
  • Description:

    Intriguing Hawaiian option that combines two popular boys' names—Kai and Noah.
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