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Hapa is a term used to describe a person of mixed ethnic heritage. The term originates in Hawaii from the Hawaiian Pidgin word for "part" or "mixed".[1] In Hawaii, the word refers to any person of mixed ethnic heritage, regardless of the specific mixture.[2][3] In California, the term has recently been used for any person of part Asian or Pacific Islander descent. Therefore, there are two concurrent usages.[4][5][6][7][8][nb 1]


  • Etymology and usage 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
    • Footnotes 3.1
    • Notes 3.2
    • Sources 3.3

Etymology and usage

The term hapa comes from a Hawaiian Pidgin 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.

Used without qualification, hapa is often taken to mean "part White" and is shorthand for hapa haole. The term can be used in conjunction with other Hawaiian racial and ethnic descriptors to specify a particular racial or ethnic mixture. Examples of this is hapa haole (part European/White).[10][11]

Pukui states that the original meaning of the word haole was "foreigner". Therefore, all non-Hawaiians can be called haole. 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.[12]

Some see the use of the term as a misappropriation of Hawaiian culture.[1][13][14]

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.[15] 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,[16] and include titles such as "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua" and "Sweet Leilani".[17]

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 also



  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".[9]


  1. ^ a b Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 137: "Currently, Hawaiian locals use Hapa to refer to any individual who is racially mixed."
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Bernstein and De la Cruz (2009), p. 723: "Today, Hapa is used to describe any person of mixed Asian Pacific American descent."
  6. ^ 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)."
  7. ^ 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 Asian American."
  8. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 135: "In California, individuals recognized the term as meaning mixed Asian/Pacific Islander or, more popularly, part Asian."
  9. ^ Office of Management and Budget (30 October 1997), Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, US Government, retrieved 4 September 2013 
  10. ^ 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.""
  11. ^ "Hapa Haole". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Gerrit Parmele Judd IV (1961). Hawaii: an informal history. Collier Books. p. 136. 
  13. ^ Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 138: "Prominent figures in the
  14. ^ Dariotis (2007)
  15. ^  
  16. ^ "Barack Obama, the Aloha Zen President". Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World". Retrieved 14 May 2015. 



  • Huynh-Hohnbaum, Anh-Luu T. (2009). "Multiracial Asians and Pacific Islanders". In Chen, Wen-Chu; Yoo, Grace J. Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today 1. Greenwood Pub Group. pp. 437–443.  

Journal articles

  • Bernstein, Mary; De la Cruz, Marcie (2009). What are You?": Explaining Identity as a Goal of the Multiracial Hapa Movement""". Social Problems (University of California Press) 56 (4): 722–745.  
  • Easley, Allen Ken (1995). "Of Children's Plates, Melting Pots, Tossed Salads and Multiple Consciousness: Tales from a Hapa Haole". UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal (UCLA) 3 (1): 75–80. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  • Ozaki, C. Casey; Johnston, Marc (2009). "The space in between: Issues for multiracial student organizations and advising". New Directions for Student Services (Wiley Periodicals Inc.) 2008 (123): 53–61.  
  • Taniguchi, Angela S.; Heidenreich, Linda (2005). "Re-Mix: Rethinking the use of ‘Hapa’ in Mixedrace Asian/Pacific Islander American Community Organizing". Washington State University McNair Journal (Fall) (Washington State University). pp. 135–146. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 


  • Dariotis, Wei Ming (2007). "Hapa: The Word of Power". Mixed Heritage Center. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
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