Hawaiian names are becoming more widely used in the US in recent years, especially for girls. Names that end 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 girl names in the US Top 1000 include Kehlani, Alani, Kailani, Kaia, and Nalani. Hawaiian boy names in the US Top 1000 include Koa, Kai, and Keanu.
Hawaiian girl names that are uniquely popular in Hawaii itself include Kalea, Makena, and Mahina, Popular Hawaiian boy names in their native state include Kaimana and Nakoa. 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.
Description:Kai is an internationally flexible name with many possible origins and meanings, growing in popularity in the US and a diverse range of European countries.
Origin:Latin, Scandinavian, or Hawaiian
Meaning:"to rejoice or sea"
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.
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."
Description:With Noah taking the Number 1 spot in 2013, Koa is attracting more attention than ever.
Origin:Feminization of Alan, Irish; variation of Ilana, Hebrew; Gaelic; Hawaiian
Meaning:"handsome, rock; oak tree; child; awakening"
Description:Alana, in all its various spellings, was at one time reserved for daughters of dads named Alan, but is now much more widespread. It came into prominence via model/actress/celeb spouse Alana Hamilton Stewart.
Meaning:"the coolness, or the cool breeze"
Description:An evocative 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. Keanu ranks among
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.
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.
Origin:Hawaiian, Greek, Basque
Meaning:"dolphin; to flow; wave, sea foam"
Description:Multicultural option, equally intriguing as, but more unusual than, Maia.
Origin:Hebrew, Hawaiian, Maori, Japanese
Meaning:"grace, work, glow, flower"
Description:Many things to many peoples: a flower name, also spelled Hanae, to the Japanese; a Czech and Polish short form of Johana; and an alternate form of the biblical name Hannah in the US. It also means "craft, work" in Hawaiian and "glow" in Maori.
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.
Origin:Variation of Leo, Latin
Description:This alternative spelling of Leo is popular with German-speaking parents. It's rare in English-speaking areas, which could be a burden, but the advantage is that it could be short for (or honor) a name such as Julio or Lionel.
Origin:German, diminutive of Liselotte; Hawaiian
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.
Description:This appealing multi-cultural name, pronounced KYE, is beginning to be used for girls as well as boys. Among its many derivations and meanings: "sea" in Hawaiian, "forgiveness" in Japanese, "willow tree" in Navajo, "food" in Maori, and "earth" in Scandinavian. For girls, it debuted on the US Top 1000 in 2010.
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.
Origin:Hawaiian variation of Mary
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.
Origin:Hawaiian or Norse
Meaning:"leeward or woman, wife"
Description:Kona is strongly associated with the Kona coffee of Hawaii. The Hawaiian word kona means "leeward" or "dry side of the island," and Kona districts are where Kona coffee is grown. It's a unisex name in Hawaii, with an appealing simple, strong sound.
Origin:Spelling variation of Luca
Description:Luka is one of the coolest names in recent years, following suit of its cousin Luca which is now a Top 50 name. Luka is on its way up the charts and may crack the Top 100 in the very near future. Luka has a lot going for it — it is following the tails of Lucas and Luke which have been enjoying significant popularity for years. It also boasts the very current "-ah" ending sound that feels fresher than ever for boy names, from Noah to Ezra to Judah. The "k" in the middle gives an extra edge as well.
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.
Description:Okay, this is going to be confusing...