This week’s UH ‘Ōlelo of the Week is shared by UH Hilo Associate Professor Kekoa Harman

Kekoa Harman, associate professor of Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language at UH Hilo, shares the Hawaiian word “ao.”


By Susan Enright.

In February of this year, University of Hawai‘i News began a partnership with Hawaiian language departments and Hawaiian-focused offices across the UH 10-campus system to spotlight a Hawaiian word each week. Every campus is taking its turns showcasing a hua‘ōlelo (Hawaiian word) with the hope of educating and encouraging more people to learn and speak Hawaiian.

Kekoa Harman
Kekoa Harman

This week, the Hawaiian word of the week, ao, is presented by Kekoa Harman, associate professor of Hawaiian studies and Hawaiian language at Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Ao —Light, day, daylight, dawn; to dawn, grow light; enlightened; to regain consciousness.

“As we continue to strengthen and work together as a people, it is always important for us to remember the ‘ao,’ the light. We are reaching a new consciousness of who we are and our purpose in the world.”  —Kekoa Harman.

For more information on other elements of the definition and usage of “ao,” go to the UH Hilo Wehewehe Wikiwiki.

More about Associate Prof. Harman in a previous story:

Harman is an educator not just for the benefit of his students, but to ensure the preservation of the sacred dialect that is ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

“Our Hawaiian language program at UH Hilo is connected to the Hawaiian language community,” he says. “So with that, there is an understanding that when you’re going for this knowledge, when you’re learning the language, you want to seek out other ways for the language to live.”

He goes on to explain, “I utilize the resources that I have to ensure that this knowledge, this ʻike, will continue to live on.”

Expanding on the significance of preserving ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, Harman also believes that his classes are an extension of what the entire Hawaiian studies department has to offer.

“Our particular program here at UH Hilo really presents an opportunity for students who are from here to gain a better understanding of Hawai‘i,” he says.

“From the language, to the people, to the food, to the history–I think students who are born and raised here come to our program with questions about their identity. Once they understand who they are and where they come from, that helps them to pursue anything in life. For our local students, the program presents this opportunity for them to establish their identities.”

Learn about Associate Prof. Harman and his virtual teaching during covid:

Kekoa Harman finds richness in teaching ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i online


By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.