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American Names Go Hawaiian

June 17, 2024 namerology No Comments

American Names Go Hawaiian

June 17, 2024 Namerology No Comments
Outline of the United States filled in with a floral Hawaiian pattern

The hottest name style in America is Hawaiian. Hawaiian classics like Kai and Leilani have become nationwide hits, and they’re just the beginning. The sound of Hawai’i is everywhere, combining with other name trends in a wave of creativity.

The Building Blocks

The Hawaiian language is built from an exceptionally small set of phonemes. The language has only eight different consonant sounds, which are always separated by vowels. That structure gives Hawaiian its distinctive round, flowing sound.

Classic Hawaiian name elements include:

Kai, “sea,” as in Kai and Kaikea (“sea foam”) 
Anu, “cold/coolness,” as in Keanu (“cool breeze”) and Anuhea (“cool mist”)
Koa, “bold/warrior,” as in Koa and Makoa (“fearless, to act bravely”)
Lani, “sky/heavens/highness,” as in Leilani (“royal child/heavenly garland”) and Kailani (“heavenly sea”)

Those elements, especially as name endings, are entirely absent from traditional Anglo-American names. In fact, a century ago the endings were nonexistent in US baby name statistics. Take a look at what’s happened to them since.

A graph with numbers and lines

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That’s a 3100% rise over the past 10 years alone. Other rarer Hawaiian endings like inoa (“name”) and nani (“pretty”) show similar patterns. Taken together, they now grace nearly 300 different names from Aalani to Zylani.

Why Now?

Some of the newly popular names trace back to specific pop-culture inspirations. For instance, the name Keanu was popularized by actor Keanu Reeves, and the singer Kehlani sparked a flurry of similar -ani names. But the enthusiasm and creativity that parents show for the style goes far beyond celebrity imitation.

The smooth, vowel-forward sound of Hawaiian is perfectly suited to contemporary tastes. The fact that the sounds are so unlike American names of the past adds the allure of freshness. Hawaiian names like Kainoa, Mahina, Makoa and Noelani have reached new popularity heights without any famous standard bearers.

The trend now has momentum of its own. More non-Hawaiian parents are searching for names of Hawaiian origin, and many new inventions follow Hawaiian sound cues. America’s top new names last year were Rumani and Cimani for girls, Yamari and Kaiyr for boys. The parents who choose them or create new names like Ellani and Jakai may not even be thinking of Hawai’i at all, but they’re helping give the next generation the islands’ distinctive sound.

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