iheartprinceville logo dark

Comprehensive Resources for Princeville, Kilauea and Hanalei residents and visitors

Mele Kalikimaka

– pronounced [ˈmɛlɛ kəˌlikiˈmɐkə]) is a Hawaiian-themed Christmas song written in 1949 by R. Alex Anderson. The song takes its title from the Hawaiian phrase Mele Kalikimaka, meaning “Merry Christmas”

The expression Mele Kalikimaka is a loan phrase from English. But since the Hawaiian language has a different phonological system from English, it is not possible to render a pronunciation that is especially close to Merry Christmas. Standard Hawaiian does not have the /r/ or /s/ sounds of English and its phonotactic constraints do not permit consonants at the end of syllables or consonant clusters. 

Thus the closest approximation to Merry Christmas is Mele Kalikimaka. The earliest record of the greeting in print is from 1904, in the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, published between 1861 and 1927.

Mele Kalikimaka

The phrase is derived from English as follows:

Merry Christmas
↓ Every consonant must be followed by a vowel in Hawaiian. The T is removed, since it is already silent in English.

Mery Carisimasa
↓ C is not a letter in Hawaiian; the closest phonetic equivalent is K.

Mery Karisimasa
↓ R is not a letter in Hawaiian; it is equivalent to L. Y is replaced by E, the sound it already denotes in English.

Mele Kalisimasa
↓ S is not a letter in Hawaiian; the closest phonetic equivalent is K.

Mele Kalikimaka

So, Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas, A very Merry Christmas, a very, very, very Merry Merry Christmas to you!

Information courtesy of wikipedia.