How to Respond to “Mahalo” (Best Hawaiian & English Responses)

Mahalo is a Hawaiian word meaning thank you. Some people say “mahalo nui loa”. It is pronounced mah-hah-loh noo-ee loh-ah. It means thank you very much. It shows a lot of thanks.

It’s not as popular as Aloha but just like Aloha, it has a deeper meaning than thank you. First, you can use Mahalo to show gratitude for what someone has done, no matter how small.

There are in fact many replies for the different types and different levels of things people have done.

If you go to Hawaii, you will see it in a lot of trash cans so many people think it means trash. It means thank you. As in, thank you for properly disposing of your waste.

Mahalo can also be a way to show respect and honor to someone. It is sometimes used as a greeting and a way to say that you respect someone.

Lastly, mahalo can be used to say hello or farewell to people. It’s not often but it is true. Now that we know this here are a few replies we can use to respond to mahalo:

9 Great Hawaiian Replies to “Mahalo”

What better way to show off or endear yourself to someone than to reply in the language in which they spoke to you? None.

Here are some Hawaiian phrases that you can use to reply to mahalo. They have simple meanings and are the same you would use to reply if you were replying in English.

It has its meaning, how to use it, and pronunciation. Let’s check them out:

  1. He mea Ike
  2. naʻu ka hauʻoli
  3. Aloha
  4. Mahalo
  5. ‘A’ole pilikia
  6. No’u ka hau’oli
  7. He ohohia au
  8. Hauʻoli e kōkua
  9. Malama pono

Naʻu ka hauʻoli

This is one that we use every time. Translated to English, this means “you are welcome”. Some people spell it without the apostrophes, but that doesn’t change the main.

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Aloha

I guess this is by far the most popular Hawaiian word. Aloha doesn’t just mean hello or goodbye, it is also an acknowledgment of mahalo.

Mahalo

It sounds odd but even as a way to honor people and show appreciation, you can respond with mahalo.

Some people believe that whether in Hawaii or anywhere outside the islands you should not respond to thank you. If you feel uncomfortable keeping silent, you can say Mahalo in return.

In a context where it is said in respect, you can use Malaho to return the respect.

Remember mahalo is also a response to a greeting so you can respond with it. Pretty simple. One response for any meaning at all.

‘A’ole pilikia

This phrase means “no problem” (‘a’ole Mena’s no while pilika means problem), and it is pronounced ah-o-lay pee-lee-kee-ah.

It is something that tourists can easily pick up. It means no problem and you can use it as a response to mahalo. It can also mean no trouble.

Whichever one they understand it to be is fine as long as you pronounce it right.

No’u ka hau’oli

This means the pleasure is mine, and it is a very popular reply to thank you, in Hawaiian or English. It is good for those who are older than you so you won’t come off as rude using any other replies.

It is pronounced as no-ooh-kah-how-oh-lee. It can also mean I am excited but that’s to say you are very happy to share something with them.

He mea ‘iki

This Hawaiian phrase means a little thing. It can be said for small favors like picking up a fallen object, handing an item to someone, or other small things that anyone would say mahalo to.

Since the reply said it is a little thing that you have done, you are telling the other person that there is no need to thank you as you are just being helpful. It is pronounced heh MEH-ah EE-kee.

He ohohia au

This reply means “I am delighted”. It is pronounced heh oh-hoh-HEE-ah AH-OO Let’s say you gave someone something special or you shared something with them, if they say mahalo, you can respond with this.

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It means that you are happy for the joy you have given them through the nice thing you did. It is a cute reply and it will warm anyone’s heart.

Hauʻoli e kōkua

This reply means happy to help. If you get the pronunciation right, you will really make anyone who speaks the Hawaiian language smile very big.

Malama pono

Malama pono means take care or be alright. If you trace it down to the cultural meaning, it means to take good care of your soul.

You can say this as a good wish when you are greeted with “mahalo” as a greeting or as a way to honor someone.

This reply is better than wishing a local good luck or giving a direct wish because good wishes are believed to jinx anything good so it’s best to stick with Malama pono

You can also use the English meaning of these phrases if you feel more comfortable with them or if you are worried about messing up the pronunciation.

11 Cool English Responses to “Mahalo”

How to Respond to Mahalo

If you don’t want to stress with memorizing phrases or worrying about mispronunciation, you can just use your normal English replies to respond to Mahalo.

As long as whoever you are speaking to won’t take offense or understands what you are saying, you can use any of these replies:

  1. You are welcome
  2. Sure thing
  3. No need to thank me
  4. No worries
  5. It’s nothing
  6. Anything for you
  7. No need to thank me
  8. Of course
  9. Same to you
  10. Don’t mention it
  11. Anytime

You are welcome

I know there is already the Hawaiian word for “you are welcome” but there is no problem in saying it if you don’t want to go for the Hawaiian version.

ocals are open to it, as is everyone else in the world, so no matter where you say it as a response to Mahalo, there is no need to worry.

Don’t thank me

Or more politely, no need to thank me. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t say thank you. It means you feel that whatever you did is not exactly worthy of a thank you.

Sure thing

Simple replies like this tell them that you acknowledge what they have said. You can use a simple “sure” or add a term of endearment if you like.

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No worries

It has the same meaning as no problem. It means there is no need to thank you. You can still say no problem if you like and even it to no p. You can also say no sweat.

It’s nothing

This is a modest reply that tells others that whatever you did is not a big deal and doesn’t deserve appreciation.

Anything for you

You are basically saying that no matter what they need your help with, you will always be there to do whatever it is for them.

No need to thank me.

This is another modest reply. Most people like to pair this with, “just doing my job”. You can still use this phrase whether it’s your job or not.

Of course

It is an affirmation that just acknowledges wh they have said. There isn’t much thought to it and no one will beat you over it.

Same to you

When mahalo is said to show respect you can say “same to you” if you don’t want to use mahalo or if you don’t want to be misunderstood.

Anytime

If a stranger tells you Mahalo, this reply is not very nice because you might not see them again. However, for your Hawaiian Friends, it’s a great response.

Don’t mention it

You can use this to reply to Mahalo for small favors. If they don’t understand, you can explain that there is no need for them to say thank you for something so insignificant.

3 basic gestures you can use as a response to Mahalo

Fun fact, Hawaii is one of the islands that form the Polynesian triangle. In Polynesian culture, you don’t necessarily have to give a reply. They, in fact, encourage you to use gestures.

How to Respond to Mahalo

They are few, and they are common but they are easy to use and understand. They are:

A big smile is a sweet gesture reply to “Mahalo”

Many will advise you to smile. It’s great if you don’t want to say anything and it is acceptable in Hawaiian culture as a common reply to mahalo.

You can wave your hands

On the Polynesian island, waving is a very common way to respond to mahalo. You can easily couple a wave with aloha to mean you are welcome.

You can nod your head

A nod is a common way of affirmation. It will do for a reply and you can say aloha if you want. You can use this to reply to mahalo if it is used to pay respect.

Conclusion

And that’s all we have on the topic. Remember to analyze the context in which mahalo is said so you can give the appropriate reply.

I hope the answers are helpful. If you have other ideas or answers you can drop them in the comments below. Mahalo.

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