Examples of ohana
Where does ohana come from?
On a literal level, ohana (often spelled ‘ohana in Hawaiian) refers to part of the taro plant, the ‘oha-ana. The ‘ohā is the shoot of the plant, which can be cut to grow a new plant, and ana is a word that conveys “regeneration.” By metaphorical extension, ohana is used in native Hawaiian culture for one’s social support system, including one’s nuclear family, extended family, close friends and colleagues, and other communities or groups they belong to. The idea is that, just as the taro plant produces offshoots, a person’s family is multigenerational and grows in different directions.
Everyone related by blood is part of an ohana, not just the strict nuclear family, and so are close family friends. However, the concept of ohana can go beyond blood relatives to describe family that’s not formally related, but who are nevertheless bound by circumstances or inclination. Churches, schools, places of work, and recreational activities can all be the basis for developing ohana, referred to as one’s work ohana, school ohana, and so forth.
In addition to describing relationship networks, ohana carries a certain responsibility. When you’re part of an ohana, you have an obligation to take care of those in your circles, and they have an obligation to take care of you. In the context of a family, this can mean respecting your elders or caring for children within the family. In a work ohana, colleagues share obligations. More generally, a member of any type of ohana is expected to behave honorably and avoid bringing shame to the group.
Who uses ohana?
The word was popularized in English by the 2002 Disney film, Lilo & Stitch, which explained: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.” Thanks to the popularity of the film, ohana has been adopted as a foreign loanword by many people who don’t speak Hawaiian or live in Hawaii or other Pacific Island communities.
As ohana frequently denotes multigenerational family groups, so ohana housing refers to secondary dwelling units on a main lot that relatives of the owners live in, for example, an in-law suite.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of ohana like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of ohana that will help our users expand their word mastery.