1. Thanks, gratitude; to thank. Mahalo nui loa, thanks [you] very much. ʻŌlelo mahalo, compliment. Mahalo ā nui, thanks very much. (PPN masalo.)
2. Admiration, praise, esteem, regards, respects; to admire, praise, appreciate. ʻO wau nō me ka mahalo, I am, [yours] respectfully. Ka mea i mahalo ʻia, Mr. Pākī, the esteemed Mr. Pākī. (PEP masalo.)
Mahalo is a very well known Hawaiian word, in and outside of Hawaiʻi. It is probably the third most popular Hawaiian word, right after aloha and lei.
Mahalo is said when giving thanks or expressing appreciation for something given or done. Unlike in English, though, there isn’t really an appropriate “you’re welcome” in Hawaiian like there is in English. But since Western custom demands an answer to thank you (if you really think about it, why do we need to answer someone who is really answering in response to something done?), Hawaiian responses have been formulated, such as:
Noʻu ka hauʻoli – the pleasure is mine.
ʻAʻole pilikia – No problem.
Hiki nō – Can do.
So when someone says mahalo to you, you can respond with one of the “you’re welcome” phases above, or just smile and know that they are acknowledging a deed well done.
Mahalo is a verb.
Nui koʻu mahalo i kāna hana – I really admire his work.
E mahalo aku ʻoe i kāu kumu – Thank your teacher.
Mahalo au i ka nani o ka ʻāina – I am grateful for the beauty of the land.
Mahalo i ka mea loaʻa – Be grateful for what [you] have.