“Ānuenue” And More Hawaiian Words For “Rainbow”

13 March 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House
Unsplash: Eleonora Patricola

There’s a rainbow always after the rain and the best spot to see this beautiful arc of colors is wherever you are… or Hawaii, aka the Rainbow State. Together with its plentiful sunlight, crisp air, clean water, and fresh weather, this place is clearly ideal for creating unique, multicolored bows that can last for hours and hours, leaving you breathless.

Truly, a rainbow is a familiar sight in Hawaii, whether it’s up above the clouds or featured on a car license plate. However, something fascinating about this colorful natural phenomenon is that a rainbow also has deep cultural significance in both Hawaiian mythology and language.

In Hawaiian mythology, a rainbow serves as both a celestial gateway for Hawaiian gods to descend to Earth and a route for the spirits of the dead to travel to other heavenly places. In addition, Ānuenue (Hawaiian word for rainbow) is known as the Hawaiian Rainbow Goddess who is also a messenger of the gods. And she was believed to be so beautiful that a rainbow followed her everywhere she went, bringing luck with her.

And then, there’s the lovely Hawaiian language with a glossary of terms for the different types of rainbows the eyes can see. Continue reading to discover some of the words that vividly describe the variety of rainbows out there:

  • Rainbow: Ānuenue
  • Earth clinging rainbow: Uakoko, Lehopulu
  • Moonbows: Ānuenue kau pō
  • Greenish rainbow: Hakahakaea
  • Barely visible rainbow: Punakea
  • The double rainbow: Ka Piʻo Ānuenue Pālua
  • The rainbow that doesn’t touch the earth: Ka Pūloʻu
  • Standing rainbow shaft: Kāhili
  • Rainbow around the sun or moon: Luahoano, Luakālai, Luakālai lani
  • Full arching rainbow: Ka Piʻo Ānuenue Piha
  • The misty rainbow: Ke Koʻiʻula
  • The night rainbow: Ka Pō Mākole
  • The rainbow water: Ka Waiānuenue