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What does eh brah mean?

The phrase “eh brah” is commonly used in Hawaii and by surfers and beachgoers around the world. It’s an informal greeting that embodies the casual, relaxed vibe of island life. But what are the origins of “eh brah” and how did it become part of surfer lingo?

The Meaning and Origin of “Eh Brah”

“Eh brah” is a casual way of saying “hey brother” or “hey pal.” The “eh” part is just a laidback sound used to get someone’s attention, while “brah” is short for “brother.” When said together, “eh brah” translates loosely to something like “hey man” or “what’s up dude.”

The term has its roots in Hawaiian Pidgin, a creole language that developed on the Hawaiian Islands in the 19th century as a way for plantation workers from different ethnicities to communicate. In Pidgin, “brah” is pronounced more like “bruddah” and is used to address a friend or brother. The traditional Hawaiian term for brother is also “kaikaina.”

Over time as Pidgin spread, “brah” was borrowed into general Hawaiian slang usage. Adding “eh” to the front made it a casual term used to get someone’s attention. It gained popularity among Hawaiian surfers and beachgoers in the 1960s as a way to acknowledge friends and strangers alike with the laidback, welcoming spirit of aloha.

Surfing and Beach Culture

The phrase “eh brah” spread beyond Hawaii thanks to surf culture and the popularity of beach movies in the 1960s. Southern California surfers traveling to Hawaii brought “eh brah” back with them to the mainland. Using the term made them feel like a part of the casual, fun-loving vibe of Hawaiian beach life.

Soon “eh brah” was being used by surfers up and down the California coast. From there it spread to beach communities around the U.S. and internationally as surf culture grew in popularity through music, film and fashion. Movies like Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo helped cement it in pop culture.

For surfers, “eh brah” embodied their identity and lifestyle. The term gave them a sense of belonging to a larger tribe or “brah” of fellow wave-riders who shared their passion.

Popularity in Movies and TV

As surf culture was popularized on screen, “eh brah” became almost instantly recognizable shorthand for a relaxed, beach-dwelling character. The term appeared in Beach Party films starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon and was used regularly in the 1960s TV series Gidget.

Later, movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Point Break continued featuring “eh brah” in scenes involving surfing and extreme sports. The 1991 song “Surf City” by Jan and Dean also uses the phrase in its lyrics.

By the 1990s, “eh brah” was firmly established in America’s vocabulary and no longer just limited to actual surfers. Movies like Clueless and shows like Full House and Saved by the Bell tossed it around regularly, cementing it as a fun, playful way for young people to greet each other.

Modern Usage

These days, “eh brah” is recognized widely as surfer slang and continues to give off a relaxed, beachy vibe. You’ll still hear it used affectionately among actual surfers, but it’s also common to hear it used jokingly or satirically by non-surfers wanting to evoke the essence of chill beach life.

Some examples of using “eh brah” in modern speech include:

  • Greeting a friend in an exaggerated surfer drawl: “Ehhh brah! How’s it hanging dude?”
  • Commenting on something positive: “Eh brah, that’s gnarly awesome.”
  • Agreeing with someone: “Eh brah, you’re so right about that.”
  • Poking fun at surf culture: “Whoa, sick waves today eh brah?”

The term endures because it so perfectly captures the vibe of sunny, carefree beach life. It’s a phrase that lets you immediately tap into that laidback SoCal or Hawaiian spirit. While its use has spread far from the beaches and boards where it originated, “eh brah” remains a fun, playful way to acknowledge a friend or just generally evoke good vibes.


“Eh brah” emerged in Hawaiian Pidgin as a casual term meaning “hey brother” or “hey pal”. It was adopted by Hawaiian surfers and became a symbol of their culture and lifestyle. Thanks to surf movies and TV shows, “eh brah” spread internationally throughout the 1960s. While originally used seriously by surfers, it became co-opted in pop culture as a humorous or satirical way to acknowledge friends or imitate beach life. Today it endures as a lighthearted expression encapsulating the sunny, welcoming spirit of “aloha.” So next time you’re feeling those chill beach vibes, give a nod to surf culture and say “Eh brah!”