Open main menu

Hapa is a term for a person of mixed ethnic heritage. The term originates in Hawaii from the Hawaiian word for "half", "part", or "mixed".[1] It is in itself loaned from the English word "half".[2] In Hawaii, the word refers to any person of mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of the specific mixture.[3][4] In California, the term has been used recently for any person of East Asian or Southeast Asian admixture.[5][6][7] Therefore, the two uses are concurrent.[8][9][10][11][12][13][a]


Etymology and usageEdit

Hapa Haole (No. 206) by Grace Hudson, 1901

The term "hapa" comes from a Hawaiian word that denotes a part or fragment of something, itself a loan from the English word "half". When applied to people, this denotes that such people are of mixed descent.[13]

Used without qualification, hapa is often taken to mean "part White"[citation needed] and is shorthand for hapa haole.[citation needed] The term can be used in conjunction with other Hawaiian racial and ethnic descriptors to specify a particular racial or ethnic mixture.[citation needed] An example of this is hapa haole (part European/White).[15][16]

Pukui states that the original meaning of the word haole was "foreigner".[citation needed] Therefore, all non-Hawaiians can be called haole.[citation needed] In practical terms, however, the term is used as a racial description for Caucasians (whites), with the specific exclusion of Portuguese. Portuguese were traditionally considered to be a separate race in Hawaii.[17]

Some see the use of the term as a misappropriation of Hawaiian culture.[1][18][19] Others take a stronger stand in discouraging its usage and misuse as they consider the term to be vulgar and racist.[20] However, the term, unlike other words referring to mixed race people, is not and has never been a derogatory term when used in its original Hawaiian context, although it was later degraded by non-Hawaiians such as Japanese-Americans.[21] As Wei Ming Dariotis states, "'Hapa' was chosen because it was the only word we could find that did not really cause us pain. It is not any of the Asian words for mixed Asian people that contain negative connotations either literally (e.g. 'children of the dust', 'mixed animal') or by association (Eurasian)." [22]

Hapa-haole also is the name of a type of Hawaiian music in which the tune, styling, and/or subject matter is Hawaiian, but the lyrics are partly, mostly, or entirely in English.[23] Many hapa-haole songs had their musical roots in the Western tradition, and the lyrics were in some combination of English and Hawaiian; these songs first gained popularity outside the Territory of Hawaii beginning in 1912–1915,[24] and include titles such as "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua" and "Sweet Leilani".[25]

Hapa haole is also used for Hawaiian-language hula songs that are partly in English, thus disqualifying them as "authentic" Hawaiian hula in some venues such as the Merrie Monarch Festival.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Asian or Pacific Islander (API)" was a US Census classification prior to the 2000 US Census subsequently separated into two categories: "Asian" and "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander".[14]



  1. ^ a b Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723
  2. ^ "The Problem With Using the Word 'Hapa' For Mixed Asians". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  3. ^ Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723: "Thus, for locals in Hawai’i, both hapa or hapa haole are used to depict people of mixed-race heritage."
  4. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 137: "Currently, Hawaiian locals use Hapa to refer to any individual who is racially mixed."
  5. ^
  6. ^ "31 Things All Half-Asians Know To Be True". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Are we using the word 'Hapa' in the wrong context?". Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  8. ^ Huynh-Hohnbaum (2009), p. 437: "The term "hapa" is commonly used to refer to multiracial Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) and originates from a Native Hawaiian word."
  9. ^ Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723: "Today, Hapa is used to describe any person of mixed Asian Pacific American descent."
  10. ^ Ozaki and Johnston (2009), pp. 53–54: "Currently, hapa is often used to refer to anyone of a racially mixed Asian heritage, and even more recently to anyone who is of mixed-race heritage (Taniguchi and Heidenreich, 2005)."
  11. ^ Folen, Alana; Ng, Tina (Spring 2007). "The Hapa Project: How multiracial identity crosses oceans". University of Hawaii at Manoa. Retrieved 4 September 2013. "Jonathan Okamura, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, explained that although hapa is a word that describes all people of mixed ancestry, hapa is primarily used to describe people who are half white and half East or Southeast Asian American."
  12. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 135: "In California, individuals recognized the term as meaning mixed Asian/Pacific Islander or, more popularly, part Asian."
  13. ^ a b Downes, Lawrence (2017-03-11). "In Los Angeles, a Festival of Love and Hapa-ness". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  14. ^ Office of Management and Budget (30 October 1997), Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, US Government, archived from the original on 2017-01-17
  15. ^ Easley (1995), p. 76: "'Hapa haole' is a commonly used phrase in Hawaii, employed by all Asian subgroups, but Hawaiian in origin. The phrase literally translates into "of part-white ancestry or origin.""
  16. ^ "Hapa Haole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  17. ^ Gerrit Parmele Judd IV (1961). Hawaii: an informal history. Collier Books. p. 136.
  18. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 138: "Prominent figures in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, such as the Trask sisters, have spoken out against the co-optation of the Hawaiian language by Hapa organizations and other 'inappropriate' uses of the term."
  19. ^ Dariotis (2007)
  20. ^ Asakawa, Gil (2015) [2004]. Being Japanese American (2nd ed.). Stone Bridge Press. p. preface page 2. ISBN 978-1611720228. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  21. ^ Johnson, Akemi. "Who Gets To Be Hapa?". National Public Radio. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  22. ^ Dariotis, Wei Ming. "Hapa: The Word of Power". Mixed Heritage Center. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  23. ^ Kanahele, George S.; Berger, John, eds. (2012) [1979]. Hawaiian Music & Musicians (2nd ed.). Honolulu, HI, USA: Mutual Publishing, LLC. ISBN 9781566479677. OCLC 808415079.
  24. ^ "Barack Obama, the Aloha Zen President". Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  25. ^ "Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World". Retrieved 14 May 2015.



Journal articles


External linksEdit