Tourism officials are changing the way they refer to Hawaii’s Big Island and returning to the island’s Hawaiian name, Hawaii. To avoid confusion with the state name, everyone is encouraged to use Hawaii Island when referring to the island.
The neighbor islands of Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Kauai, Molokai, Kahoolawe and Niihau were also independently named by early Hawaiians. But when King Kamehameha the Great, who hailed from Hawaii Island, unified all of the islands under his rule in 1810, the Kingdom of Hawaii was established and it encompassed all the islands. When the Kingdom was overthrown in 1893, and the Territory of Hawaii was established (followed by Statehood) Hawaii became the name for the entire chain of islands.
“Our name is Hawaii,” said Big Island Visitors Bureau Executive Director George Applegate. “We’ve used the nickname, ‘Big Island,’ for the last 25 years to distinguish Hawaii, the island from Hawaii, the state. The ‘Big Island’ nickname has since become part of our history and people are connected to it, but it’s not the name of our island. Identifying our island by nickname has not always set well with many people who live, work and play here. The nickname has confused some visitors, who think the ‘Big Island’ means ‘big city,’ and mistake Hawaii Island for Oahu, home to the state capital of Honolulu. We will introduce the island as Hawaii Island moving forward.”