Glyph of the word 'kamakawi'.


  • (n.) rainbow
  • (n.) collective term for the united Kamakawi tribes (short for emi pokamakawi)
  • (n.) name of the Kamakawi language (short for kalaka tikamakawi [which itself is short for kalaka tiemi pokamakawi])
  • (n.) name of the Kamakawi Islands (short for Ileleya Kamakawi)
  • (adj.) Kamakawi

Hou! A kamakawi ka! Ai e eteke iko ti uku ai?!
“Whoa! A double rainbow! What does this mean?!”

Notes: I wanted to include a really boss picture of a rainbow, but it turns out I don’t have one, so I’ll just link to this famous video.

So now we’ve come to one of Kamakawi’s dirty little secrets. In the beginning, for some inexplicable reason, Kamakawi was head-final in certain respects, and head-initial in most other. I didn’t figure this out for awhile, though. For probably the first year of its existence, for example, nawanaka (a goldfish) was a nakanawa—exactly backwards of what it should be. I eventually corrected most of these errors.

One that persisted, though, was the name of the language itself: Kamakawi. See, I knew that had to be the name of the language, because it was inspired by the last name of famous Hawai‘ian singer Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. Thus, the order of “kama” and “kawi” was set: it was just a matter of what the word (or words) meant.

First I decided it should be a compound (there are long words in Kamakawi, but I don’t think there are any tetrasyllabic simplex words). “Rainbow” seemed like as good a meaning as any, but what words could produce “rainbow”?

That’s when I came up with kama “to paint” and kawi “cloud”, which, when combined thus, meant “painted cloud”. And that was the word for “rainbow”.

Well, until I realized that in order for that interpretation to be true, the word would actually need to be kawikama (well, either that, or I’d need to switch the definitions of kama and kawi, and by the time I realized the error, it was far, far too late to do that).

After some thought, I decided to reanalyze the compound—not its structure, but its meaning. As it is, the word means something like “cloud-like ink”.

And that’s when it hit me! A rainbow is not a painted cloud: It’s paint for a cloud—that is, it’s cloud paint!

And there you have it. Rainbows, in Kamakawi, are a special type of paint one can use to paint the clouds and the sky. And the painters? Why, they’re the Kamakawi: The Painters of the Sky.

Hey, I wonder how that would translate… It’d be: Kalima oe Ele or maybe Kalima oe Fuilaila. Pretty cool; I dig it.

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2 Responses to “Kamakawi”

  1. Ka kavaka Matt ti:

    It took me forever to bang together an Okuna compound word for rainbow that I liked. I finally hit upon “esiehuilau”, from “esie” (“mist, light rain”) + “huin” (“reflected light”) + “lau” (“path, way”).

  2. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    There’s an Okuna word for reflected light—and a basic term, at that?! Does it enjoy much use? Are there any other terms derived from it?

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