Iʻa

1. Fish or any marine animal.

2. Meat or any flesh food.

3. Any food eaten as a relish with the staple (poi, taro, sweet potato, breadfruit), including meat, vegetable, or even salt. Also ʻīnaʻi. 

4. (Cap.) Milky Way. Ka Iʻa ui o ka lani, the turning Milky Way of the heavens. Ua huli ka Iʻa, the Milky Way has turned [changed position; it is past midnight].

Most people know iʻa to be the general term for fish. Iʻa not only refers to fish, but also the wide array of marine animals in the ocean: eel, oysters, crab, whale (even though we know whales to be mammals it is considered iʻa). Maybe it would be easier to think of iʻa as “sea stuffs”. Limu, or seaweed, is sometimes referred to as iʻa: ka iʻa lauoho lōʻihi o ke kai – the long haired fish of the sea.

Food in Hawaiʻi basically falls into two categories: iʻa for meats or flesh type food and also foods you would eat along with poi; and ʻai – which usually refers to vegetables. Poi, the main staple of Hawaiians, is referred to as ʻai.

Nui nā iʻa o ke kai – There are many types of ocean creatures in the sea.

Here are some ʻōlelo nane – riddles. See if you can guess the answers (below):

  1. Ka iʻa lele me he manu – the fish that flies like a bird
  2. ka iʻa kūehu ōkea – the fish that scatters white sand
  3. ka iʻa moe kahawai – the fish that lies in the stream
  4. ka iʻa mana nui – the fish of many divided parts
  5. ka iʻa maunu ʻole o ke kahawai – the fish of the stream that requires no bait
  6. ka iʻa loloa – the long fish
  7. Ka iʻa kīnohinohi pōhaku – the sea creature that adorns rocks
  8. Ka iʻa lauoho loloa o ke kuahiwi – the long-haired relish of the mountain
(1. malolo, or flying fish; 2. ʻōhiki, or white sand crab; 3. the ʻoʻopu; 4. heʻe, or octopus; 5. wī/hīhīwai; 6. puhi, or eel; 7. pipipi [periwinkle]; 8. greens)

Copyright: 2016 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of “He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Adress inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.

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