Meaning of Mahalo

I've known and used the word "Mahalo" for over 15 years. And I know "Mahalo" means "thank you".   It's always translated as "Arigato" in Japanese.  So in my understanding,


Mahalo=Thank you=Arigato=....


But this morning, after using A Big Mahalo, I was very curious the meaning of Mahalo.  What is the original meaning of "Mahalo"?   I guessed it must had some deeper meaning because the original meaning of "Arigato" didn't mean "thank you".  


 Arigato is originated in the word, "Ari(to exist)gatai(difficult)" , meaning "rare".  And this "rare" indicates we are lucky to exist as a human here and now because it's very hard to be born as a human being.   It later came to mean  "gratitude".


In like manner, I thought "Mahalo" had its original meaning and found an answer.  It was written on the Yahoo Answers! seven years ago.


According to the Best Answer,

the word, "Mahalo" can be divided into three parts as follows;



alo=presence, front, face

and Mahalo originally means,

"(May you be) in (Divine) Breath."


Interestingly, I knew Mahalo was more words of prayer and divine blessing and I understood I should not exploit these words for personal gain, and neither cheapen, nor trivialize their use by verbalizing them carelessly or without sincerity....according to the Best Answer.


You can check this original site or read as follows;

(I'm going to copy and paste the Best Answer!)



[Pronounced: mah hah' loh]

If you learn just two words in Hawaiian, learn these. They are two of the most important words in the Hawaiian language, representing paramount Hawaiian values.

In Hawaiian thinking, words have mana [pronounced: mah' nah], meaning spiritual or divine power], and aloha and mahalo are among the most sacred and powerful.

Say them often as they can be life-transforming and -enhancing. Be careful to use them ONLY if you truly feel mahalo or aloha within. Do not exploit these words for personal gain, and neither cheapen, nor trivialize their use by verbalizing them carelessly or without sincerity.

Aloha and mahalo are ineffable, indescribable, and undefinable with words alone; to be understood, they must be experienced.

Deeper meaning and sacredness is hinted at by the root words of these words. Linguists differ in their opinions as to the exact meanings and origins, but this is what was told to me by my kupuna (elder):

On a spiritual level, aloha is an invocation of the Divine and mahalo is a Divine blessing. Both are acknowledgments of the Divinity that dwells within and without.

[Ma = In] + [hâ = breath] + [alo = presence, front, face]
"(May you be) in (Divine) Breath."

Think of them as single-word blessings or prayers.

"Mahalo. 1. Thanks, gratitude; to thank.
Mahalo nui loa.
[mah hah' loh noo'(w)ee loh'(w)ah]
Thanks very much.
`Ôlelo mahalo
[OH' leh loh mah hah' loh]
Mahalo â nui
[mah hah' loh (W)AH' noo'(w)ee]
Thanks very much.
2. Admiration, praise, esteem, regards, respects; to admire, praise, appreciate.
`O wau nô me ka mahalo,
[oh vau NOH' meh kah mah hah'loh]
I am, [yours] respectfully,
Ka mea i mahalo `ia, Laki
[kah meh'(y)ah ee mah hah'loh ee'(y)ah, lah' kee]
The esteemed Laki."


Source: Pukui, Mary Kawena & Elbert, Samuel H., HAWAIIAN DICTIONARY, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1986


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