• synonyms


[kuh-nak-uh, -nah-kuh, kan-uh-kuh]
noun (sometimes initial capital letter)
  1. a native Hawaiian.
  2. a South Sea islander.
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Origin of kanaka

< Hawaiian: person
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for kanaka

Historical Examples

  • She's only a Kanaka girl, but I wouldn't trade her for a million.

    Wild Justice: Stories of the South Seas

    Lloyd Osbourne

  • Kanaka, (ka-n-ka)--a man; a commoner as opposed to the alii.

    Unwritten Literature of Hawaii

    Nathaniel Bright Emerson

  • That shuts out Boompointer or Kanaka Joe, for the matter o' that.

  • He seemed to read the thoughts which were in the Kanaka's mind.

    The Trembling of a Leaf

    William Somerset Maugham

  • He did not know what it was that made it impossible for him to look at the Kanaka.

    The Trembling of a Leaf

    William Somerset Maugham

British Dictionary definitions for kanaka


  1. (esp in Hawaii) a native Hawaiian
  2. (often not capital) Australian any native of the South Pacific islands, esp (formerly) one abducted to work in Australia
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Word Origin

C19: from Hawaiian: man, human being
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for kanaka


U.S. nautical and Australian name for "native of South Sea islands," 1840, from Hawaiian kanaka "man" (Samoan tangata).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper