ohana meaning

Beyond Family Ties: Ohana Meaning in Hawaiian Culture

In the Hawaiian culture, words often carry layers of meaning deeply rooted in tradition and values. The term “Ohana Meaning” isn’t just about family in the conventional sense, but extends far beyond, painting a richer tapestry of relationships, loyalties, and interconnectedness.

Root and Etymology of ‘Ohana’


Image source: Pinterest

The term “Ohana” traces its origins to the Hawaiian language, a rich and evocative tongue that captures the essence of the islands’ vibrant culture and history. At a surface level, ‘Ohana’ translates to “family.” But, like many words in Hawaiian, it’s more than just a straightforward definition.

Etymologically, the word stems from the root “oha,” which refers to the shoot or offshoot of a plant. This gives a deeper understanding of the concept of ‘ohana; just as new growth sprouts from the main plant, members of a family branch out but remain deeply connected to their roots. It’s a beautiful metaphor that signifies both growth and connection.

Furthermore, in ancient Hawaiian practices, ‘ohana had an even more extended understanding. Families often lived in compounds or clusters of households, known as “kauhale,” where several generations coexisted, sharing resources, knowledge, and responsibilities.

This physical clustering of homes was a real-life embodiment of the broader, interconnected ‘ohana concept, emphasizing the idea that families grow and thrive together, branching out but always staying rooted to a central core.

Thus, when one delves into the etymology and root of ‘ohana, it isn’t just about familial ties. It’s a philosophy that embraces unity, continuity, and collective growth, values deeply embedded in the Hawaiian way of life.

Beyond Blood Relations: Broadening the Definition


Image source: Pinterest

1. Traditional Family vs. ‘Ohana

Most cultures prioritize immediate kin as the primary definition of family. However, the Hawaiian perspective, represented by ‘ohana, transcends this narrow view to encompass a much broader network of relationships.

2. The Chosen Family

‘Ohana emphasizes the idea that family isn’t only determined by blood ties but also includes those we choose to embrace as family. This choice stems from love, shared experiences, mutual respect, and unwavering support, regardless of biological connections.

3. Bonds Formed by Shared Experiences

Living on an island, shared experiences from environmental challenges to communal festivities bind the Hawaiian community. These shared moments, whether they’re joyous celebrations or communal hardships, contribute to an expansive definition of ‘ohana, where people unrelated by blood become family.

4. ‘Ohana as a Beacon of Inclusivity

The concept of ‘ohana promotes inclusivity, teaching that relationships based on mutual respect and shared values can be as strong, if not stronger, than those based on genetics. This perspective promotes a sense of belonging and teaches the community the importance of nurturing relationships beyond immediate family members.

Cultural Significance in Hawaiian Traditions


Image source: Pinterest

1. Community-Centric Culture

The spirit of ‘ohana is deeply woven into the fabric of Hawaiian society. The islands, known for their sense of community and togetherness, view ‘ohana as a unifying force. Here, relationships aren’t merely bound by blood or marriage; instead, they’re fostered through shared experiences, histories, and mutual respect.

This community-driven approach has always been central to Hawaiian life, fostering an environment where everyone feels included, valued, and interconnected.

2. Traditional Practices

Celebrations and traditions in Hawaii aren’t just times of festivity but are deeply symbolic representations of ‘ohana. Events like “luau” (feasts) and “hula” (dance) become platforms where the essence of ‘ohana is both demonstrated and celebrated. Through communal feasts, storytelling, and shared dances, Hawaiians continually nurture and reaffirm the bonds that tie them together, emphasizing mutual support and the significance of shared traditions.

3. Wisdom in Proverbs

The rich oral tradition of Hawaii is filled with proverbs that encapsulate the islands’ core beliefs. One standout example is the phrase “’Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” This saying doesn’t just shed light on the value placed on relationships; it emphasizes a deep-rooted belief in the importance of inclusivity, care, and responsibility towards all members of the community.

4. Ritual Significance

Traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, like the “inoa” (naming ceremony), are testament to the central role ‘ohana plays in significant life events. During these rituals, families come together to celebrate, reflect, and anticipate the future. The naming process, in particular, often pulls from shared histories or pivotal community events, linking the individual not just to their family, but to a broader collective memory and legacy.

5. ‘Ohana and ‘Āina: The Land Connection

In Hawaiian culture, the bond between ‘ohana and ‘āina (land) is sacrosanct. Families often have ancestral lands, passed down through generations, signifying their enduring connection to the islands.

This relationship speaks to the cyclical nature of life and the belief that families, like the flora of the islands, grow, thrive, and eventually return to the land. The mutual respect between the people and the land they inhabit underlines the depth of their connection, showcasing the importance of heritage, legacy, and stewardship.

Ohana in Modern Pop Culture


Image source: Pinterest

In today’s interconnected world, cultural elements often transcend their origins, reaching a global audience and leaving a significant mark. The Hawaiian concept of ‘ohana has found its place in the spotlight, resonating deeply with diverse audiences and weaving its philosophy into the tapestry of global pop culture.

1. Hollywood’s Portrayal

Perhaps the most iconic representation of ‘ohana to the global audience came with the animated film “Lilo & Stitch.” The movie, while entertaining, delved into the heart of the ‘ohana concept with the memorable line: “’Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” Through its narrative, it conveyed the importance of familial bonds, both by blood and by choice, and how they play a pivotal role in shaping one’s life.

2. Music and Lyrics

Hawaiian music, with its soulful tunes and heartfelt lyrics, often draws inspiration from the islands’ traditions and values. Numerous songs have emphasized the significance of ‘ohana, reaching listeners worldwide and introducing them to this beautiful concept. Beyond traditional Hawaiian music, many mainstream artists have also been inspired by this sentiment, weaving it into their lyrics and melodies.

3. Fashion and Art

From clothing designs to intricate tattoos, the essence of ‘ohana has been integrated into various forms of art and fashion. Tattoos, especially, have become a popular way for individuals to express their connection to ‘ohana, often incorporating symbols representing family and interconnectedness.

4. Global Celebrations and Events

As the world becomes more globalized, many events, particularly those held in multicultural cities, have embraced and celebrated the ‘ohana spirit. Festivals, parades, and gatherings have integrated Hawaiian traditions, showcasing the importance of community and interconnectedness.

In essence, the beauty and depth of the ‘ohana concept have found a unique place in contemporary culture, making its mark and reminding the world of the profound importance of connections, both by blood and by choice.

Incorporating the Spirit of ‘Ohana in Everyday Life


While ‘ohana has its roots in Hawaiian culture, its essence is universal. Embracing this philosophy in our daily lives can foster deeper connections and promote a sense of belonging. Here’s how one can integrate the spirit of ‘ohana:

1. Nurturing Relationships

Prioritize spending quality time with family, both immediate and extended. It’s also essential to nurture relationships with close friends, mentors, and others who support and uplift you, treating them as part of your extended ‘ohana.

2. Community Involvement

Actively participate in local events, volunteer opportunities, and communal projects. By giving back to the community, you strengthen the bonds that tie everyone together, embodying the ‘ohana spirit.

3. Embracing Inclusivity

Open your heart and mind to those around you, irrespective of their background. Treat everyone as a potential member of your ‘ohana by offering understanding, acceptance, and kindness.

4. Passing Down Traditions

Share stories, values, and traditions with the younger generation. By doing so, you’re not only preserving cultural heritage but also emphasizing the importance of familial and communal bonds.

5. Celebrating Together

Create occasions to come together, celebrate, and share experiences. Whether it’s a simple dinner, a milestone celebration, or just an evening of shared stories, these moments of togetherness embody the essence of ‘ohana.


The philosophy of ‘ohana, while rooted in Hawaiian traditions, offers a universal message about the profound depth of human connections. By integrating its spirit into our daily lives, we can build stronger, more meaningful bonds, reminding us that family extends beyond just blood ties.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.