wa·​hi·​ne wä-ˈhē-nē How to pronounce wahine (audio)
: a Polynesian woman
: a female surfer

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The word wahine came into English in the late 18th century from Maori, the language of a Polynesian people native to New Zealand; it was originally used for a Maori woman, especially a wife. The word is also used for a woman in Hawaiian and Tahitian, though spelled "vahine" in the latter. Enormous waves, which are perfect for surfing, are an attraction of the Polynesian islands. As the surfing culture solidified in the mid-20th century, and as more and more girls and women grabbed their boards, "wahine" took on the new meaning of "female surfer."

Examples of wahine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In Hawaiian culture, there is kāne (man) and wahine (woman), but there is also someone who has both feminine and masculine spirits – a fluid, non-binary identity called māhū. Kathleen Wong, USA TODAY, 13 June 2023 Which American wahine is the first surfer in history to win Olympic and world titles in the same year? San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wahine.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Maori & Hawaiian, woman

First Known Use

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wahine was in 1773


Dictionary Entries Near wahine

Cite this Entry

“Wahine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wahine. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

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