Nā ana o Hawai‘i: Hawaiian Body Measurements

by Kara Ueki

Have you worked in your yard and found yourself needing a measuring tape? Ancient Hawaiians found ways to approximate measurements by using the body!


What’s great is that we can use the measuring tape to measure our Hawaiian body measurements before going out into the garden and memorize the lengths. There is a song to help us remember the body measurements which starts from the smallest to the largest:

Nā ana o Hawai‘i
Kiko, kiko*
Kīko‘o lā
Pī‘ā, pī‘ā**
Ha‘ilima lā
Iwilei, muku, anana
Eia nā ana o Hawai‘i lā

This song was shared with me during Kūlia I Ka Pono on Hawai‘i Island in the summer of 2013. In order to memorize the words with the correct body measurement, there are movements which compliment the lyrics to help match the body measurements and words. Let’s define the words which are found in the Hawaiian Dictionary or online at wehewehe.org.

*Kiko – Start the measurement from the tip of the finger to the first bend which represents about an inch in imperial measurement.
Kīko‘o – Start the measurement from the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb as if you were making an L shape.
**Pī‘ā – Start the measurement from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinky, also known as a shaka.
Ha‘ilima – Start the measurement from the tip of the longest finger to the elbow of the same arm.
Iwilei – Start the measurement from the center of the chest to the tip of the longest finger while the arm is stretched out to the side of the body, parallel to the ground.
Muku – Resembling the hula stance, both arms stretched out to the side of the body and parallel to the ground, then bend one arm at the elbow inward to the center of the body. Start the measurement from the bent elbow to the tip of the longest finger of the opposite arm.
Anana – Start the measurement from longest fingertip to the longest fingertip when both arms are stretched out and parallel to the ground.

Eia nā ana o Hawai‘i lā translates to “Here are the body measurements of Hawai‘i.”

For more detailed instructions with photos, please visit the following sites:
hanaleiwatershedhui.org and search “moon calendar”, deviantart.com and search “ohukaniohia measurement”

For those who understand ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i, ua wehewehe iki ‘ia nā anakahi o nā mahele o ke kino.
E kipa iā: Nupepa.org a e imi i ka nūpepa ‘o Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Puke 18, Helu 18, 3 Mei 1879, ‘ao‘ao 4. Aia ia atikala ma lalo o “Ke Ano o ka Hana…”


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