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What do Hawaiians call their dad?

Hawaii, with its unique and vibrant culture, is known for its strong sense of ohana (family) and the importance placed on familial relationships. In the Hawaiian language, every word carries deeper meanings and reflects the values and traditions of the island’s indigenous people. This holds true even when it comes to addressing family members. For instance, Hawaiians have a special term for father – “Makuakāne”. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of this term in Hawaiian culture and delve into the broader concept of fatherhood within Hawaiian families.

Hawaiian Language and Culture

To better understand the importance of “Makuakāne” in Hawaiian culture, it is essential to have some background knowledge of the Hawaiian language and its deep connection to the indigenous people. The Hawaiian language, also known as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, is a Polynesian language that was spoken by the native inhabitants of Hawaii long before the arrival of European settlers.

In Hawaiian culture, language is regarded as a sacred tool for expressing deep-rooted values, ancestral knowledge, and cultural traditions. The language reflects the close relationship the Hawaiians have with their land, nature, and their sense of community.

Cultural values and norms in Hawaiian society revolve around concepts such as aloha (love, compassion), ohana (family), and kuleana (responsibility). These values are deeply embedded in the language and serve as guiding principles for relationships and daily interactions.

The Concept of Fatherhood in Hawaiian Culture

In Hawaiian culture, the term “Makuakāne” is used to refer to a father, daddy, dad, or pa. The term itself holds significant cultural relevance and reflects the traditional roles and responsibilities of a father in Hawaiian families.

The term “Makuakāne” can be broken down to “maku” which means “source” or “cause” and “kāne” which means “male”. Thus, “Makuakāne” can be understood as the “source of maleness” within a family unit.

Historically, the role of fathers in Hawaiian culture was rooted in providing for the family, protecting their loved ones, and passing down cultural knowledge and traditions to the next generation. Fathers were seen as role models and pillars of support for their children, guiding them on the path of life.

The cultural relevance of “Makuakāne” goes beyond biological fatherhood. It encompasses the broader notion of fatherhood, including stepfathers, adoptive fathers, and any male figure who plays a paternal role in a child’s life. This reflects the inclusive nature and deep understanding of the importance of father-child relationships in Hawaiian culture.

When compared to other terms for father in different cultures, “Makuakāne” stands out for the way it embraces the holistic concept of fatherhood. It highlights the reverence and respect given to fathers and acknowledges their role in shaping the identity and well-being of their children.

Hawaiian Parenting Practices and Values

In Hawaiian culture, parenting is viewed as a collective effort, with everyone in the ohana playing a role in raising and nurturing the children. The responsibilities and expectations placed on parents, including fathers, are rooted in the values of respect, guidance, and nurturing.

Traditional parenting techniques in Hawaiian culture emphasize the importance of storytelling, oral history, and hands-on learning. Children are encouraged to learn through observation and participation in community activities, such as feasts, dances, and ceremonies. Fathers play a vital role in passing down cultural knowledge, teaching life skills, and providing guidance and discipline when necessary.

The emphasis on respect is a central aspect of parenting in Hawaiian culture. Children are taught to respect their parents, elders, and the land. Fathers serve as role models for their children, displaying virtues such as humility, integrity, and kindness.

Importance of Fatherhood in Hawaiian Families

The role of fathers in Hawaiian families holds great significance in shaping the identity and well-being of children. Fathers are viewed as protectors and providers, ensuring the safety and security of the family unit. They are instrumental in instilling cultural values, traditions, and the Hawaiian language in the younger generation, thus playing a vital role in preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture.

Father-child relationships in Hawaiian families are central to the overall well-being of the child. The bond between a child and their father is built on trust, love, and mutual respect. Fathers serve as mentors, offering guidance, support, and a sense of stability.

Moreover, fathers are seen as essential contributors to the spiritual and emotional growth of their children. The nurturing and loving presence of a father helps instill a sense of confidence, self-esteem, and cultural pride in their children.

Challenges and Changes in Fatherhood in Modern Hawaiian Society

While the traditional concept of fatherhood remains strong in Hawaiian culture, modern society and influences from Western parenting practices have brought about some changes and challenges.

The shift in gender roles has impacted the dynamics of fatherhood in Hawaiian families. As more women enter the workforce and pursue careers, fathers are taking on additional household responsibilities and becoming more involved in childcare.

Societal changes and individual circumstances have also led to an increase in single-parent households, where fathers assume both the role of mother and father. Despite these challenges, efforts are being made to preserve and promote traditional fatherhood values, ensuring that the unique bond between fathers and children remains strong.


The term “Makuakāne” holds profound meaning in Hawaiian culture, encompassing the role of fathers and the significance of fatherhood within families. In Hawaiian society, fathers are seen as sources of guidance, protection, and cultural knowledge. They are instrumental in shaping the identity and well-being of their children, ensuring the preservation and continuity of Hawaiian traditions and values.

Understanding the importance of “Makuakāne” and embracing the concept of fatherhood in Hawaiian culture allows us to appreciate the unique dynamics of Hawaiian families and the deep-rooted connections between fathers and children. By valuing and preserving these cultural traditions, we can foster stronger parent-child relationships and promote the overall well-being of Hawaiian families for generations to come.


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