HONOLULU (KHON2) – In Hawaiʻi, we all make use of our island roadways, but when was the last time you paid attention to their given names?  

Did you know you could learn more about our culture and history if you did?  

Check out more news from around Hawaii

Our weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various roadways across the islands so we can dig into those names, and in turn, learn something new.  

This week, we bring our attention to a street in Waikīkī.

In the ahupuaʻof Waikīkī, which lies in the moku of Kona here on Oʻahu, stands a short street that carries a name that could have different meanings.  

We are talking about Paʻū Street.

Correct spelling and pronunciation of Hawaiian words are important as a slight deviation can change its meaning completely.  

Driving down the Ala Wai Canal, you’ll come across a street named Paʻū St., according to the sign.  

The word spelt as Paʻū means “moist or damp,” referring to the duck ponds and taro patches that once called Waikīkī home.

The Ala Wai Canal was established to relieve the stagnant waters of the duck ponds which alluded to unhealthy conditions.

But according to Hawaiian historian Mary Kawena Pukuʻi, this street is named Pau St. by the man who subdivided the area.

The word spelled as Pau literally means “finished,” referring to the canoe races in the Ala Wai which ended here.

Paʻu spelled accordingly means “soot” or “ink powder,” speaking of the ink used for tattooing made of burned kukui shells.

And finally, Pāʻū spelled with the included diacritical markers can refer to a sarong or a skirt.  

In the olden days, women would wear long skirts over their dresses as they rode horses to protect them from soiling.

Pāʻū can also be seen being worn by both women and men who dance hula, specifically the ancient dances or hula kahiko.

We’re Hawaii’s weather station, get the latest forecast and radar information here

Did you know?  Now you do!