Snow in Austronesian languages

Pila Wilson pila_w at LEOKI.UHH.HAWAII.EDU
Mon Aug 22 19:37:57 UTC 2005


Just to clarify for Hawaiian.  "Hau" is a broad word that is usually
associated with H2O in a solid form.   Snow, which is found every year
here on Maunakea on the island of Hawai'i.  When there is snow on the
mountain, the usual expression is "Ua kau ka hau."  The "hau" is resting
(there.)   To distinguish snow from ice, the term "haukea" (white hau) is
used, but, simply "hau" is enough for normal conversation.   There is also
"hau'oki" for frost if there is a need to distinguish that, but it is less
obvious than snow and little distinguished.   For the ice that you find in
coolers today, the term "hau" is used again in general, and specifically
people talk about "poke hau" for ice cubes.   There is also a poetic term
for ice - wai pu-'olo i ka lau la-'au (dashes stand for macrons) found in
some stories.  It is literally water wrapped in the leaves of trees.  
This shows that ice was taken from Maunakea down to the lowlands at times
in ancient times.  There are a considerable amount of archeological sites
on Maunakea as there is a famous adze quarry there and shrines as well.

While "hau" also has a connotation of dew and cool breeze, these are
usually expressed with "këhau".  Ther is a Këhau breeze here in Hilo that
comes down from Maunakea around midnight.

The Maori have much more experience with snow, that we do in Hawai'i.  I
know that one word they use is "huka" which is cognate with Hawaiian
"hu'a" (foam as washes up on the beach after a storm.)

There may be a word for frost in Rapanui as well.

Bill Wilson
Ka Haka 'Ula O Ke'elikolani College of Hawaiian Language
University of Hawai'i at Hilo

Penei ka ‘ölelo a Piet Lincoln <linc at>:
>A few years back, a Bannoni friend wrote from Minnesota /Naniya, St.
>Paul, gharau rorosa keta butsu./
>'Here in St Paul snow is falling'  Later that year, I had to explain to
>his brother back in Bougainville what was meant by /gharau/   'rain'
>/rorosa/ 'dry'
>Hawaiian Dictionaries  have 
> /hau/  for 'snow'  and 'cold', 'cool', 'frost' ...  from PPN *sau   
>(Pukui & Elbert 1986:60)
>/hau/  'snow' 'ice' 'frost' 'dew'     (Andrews 2003: 125)
>Christopher Sundita wrote: 
>Does the word "snow" exists as a "native" (i.e., as opposed to borrowing)
>any Austronesian languages?  I imagine it must exist in some of the
>of Taiwan. 
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