There are many different types of leis, ways to make them and words that Hawaiians use to describe them. Here is a basic guide to the many terms that are used during the lei-making process.

  • Haku Lei Po’o: This is a braid made up of three strands. This is a lei-making method that uses strands that are often made from la`i, and braids them together while adding a decorative plant item into each wrap to adorn the braid. Both lei laua`e and lei laukukui are generally made with the haku method.
  • Hili: This is a method of braiding or plaiting. With this lei-making method, just one type of material is braided together to create the lei. Lei kauna`oa and lei palapalai are generally made by using hili.
  • Hilo: With this method, the lei is made from intertwining the materials with a double helix or a twist. With this lei-making method, two strands are twisted together to make a sturdy rope. The ti leaf lei (lei la`i ) is often made with the Hilo method. It is also a popular way to create the lei kauna`oa.
  • Hipu`u: This lei-making method is a way of knotting together a stem from a plant material and putting the stem of the next one into that knot. This method requires the plant material to have a long stem in order to create the chain. This method is also called nipu`u. Lei laupohuehue and lei laukukui are sometimes made with the hipu`u method.
  • Humu, humuhumu: To create a lei using this method, the decorative material is sewn together using a basting stitch to hold it onto a backing material. The backing may be felt or lauhala or paper. The feather hat lei and lei bouganvilla are sometimes made with humu, humuhumu method.
  • Kui: To make a lei with this method, sewing the decorative material together is done by piercing the material. A needle is used to pierce the material and string it into a long thread using a piercing stitch.
  • La`i: This is the name of the ti plant’s leaves.
  • Lei papale: This is any lei that is placed on a hat.
  • Lei po`o: This refers to any lei that is worn around the head.
  • Nipu`u: This lei-making method uses knotting to make a chain of decorative material. It is also called hipu`u.
  • Papale: This is the Hawaiian word for hat.
  • Po`o: This is the Hawaiian word for head.
  • Wili: This lei-making method creates leis by using a twisting method. This twisting to create a corkscrew twist is done by winding a basic string around small pieces of the decorative material that is being used to make the lei. Sometimes, a thick braid made from lauhala is used to make it easier to create the twisting effect.

Lei or Leis?

You may have wondered over the years whether the proper way to talk about the lei in multiple form is to use the term lei or leis. In the Hawaiian language, there are no differing forms for singular words and plural ones. In their language, lei describes both the singular and the plural, but we have decided to use the form leis to describe the plural to reflect the anglicized version and for clarification.

Common Misspellings

The word “Lei” is frequently misspelled as:

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