The term hapa comes from a Hawaiian Pidgin word that denotes a part or fragment of something, itself a loan from the English word half. When applied to people, this denotes that such people are of mixed descent. Mary Pukui and Samuel Ebert's Hawaiian Dictionary define hapa as: "of mixed blood, person of mixed blood as in hapa Hawaiʻi, part Hawaiian."
Used without qualification, hapa is often taken to mean "part White," and is shorthand for hapa haole. The term can be used in conjunction with other Hawaiian racial and ethnic descriptors to specify a particular racial or ethnic mixture. Examples of this include:
Pukui states that the original meaning of the word haole was "foreigner". Therefore, all non-Hawaiians can be called haole. In practical terms, however, the term is used as a racial description for Caucasians, with the specific exclusion of Portuguese. Portuguese were traditionally considered to be a separate race in Hawaii.
Hapa-haole also is the name of a type of Hawaiian music in which the tune and styling are typically Hawaiian, but the lyrics are in English or mostly in English.
In 2001, artist Kip Fulbeck began traveling the United States to find and interview hapa participants for The Hapa Project. The accompanying book consists of hundreds Americans who are of varying ages and genders and mixed races, presumably of Asian/Pacific Islander descent. The participants have similar mugshot or passport type pictures which are expressionless, without make-up, and showing only the face from the shoulders up. Under each photograph is a hand-written response which uniquely answers the question, "What are you?"
^Easley (1995), p. 76: "'Hapa haole' is a commonly used phrase in Hawaii, employed by all Asian subgroups, but Hawaiian in origin. The phrase literally translates into "of part-white ancestry or origin.""
^Taniguchi and Heidenreich (2005), p. 138: "Prominent figures in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, such as the Trask sisters, have spoken out against the co-optation of the Hawaiian language by Hapa organizations and other “inappropriate” uses of the term."
1 The Middle East is geographically in Asia; According to the US Census Bureau persons in any of the original people of the Middle East are White American. The term "Asian" is officially used by USA instead of the term "Asian Mongoloid", although the term incorporates also to populations of countries as India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, excluding to Middle East people.