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What Does “Wiki” Mean, and What Language Is It From?

wiki

WikiLeaks has been in the news lately because it released a document that encompasses over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan. Wikileaks is a site that obtains and publishes sensitive material and is designed to protect whistle-blowers, journalists and activists. Wikipedia is another wiki word that has become ubiquitous. But where does the wiki in WikiLeaks and Wikipedia come from?

Wiki was introduced into the lexicon by a computer programmer named Ward Cunningham in 1995 when he created collaborative software that he called WikiWikiWeb. Wiki is Hawaiian for “fast; quick.”

As a noun, wiki means “a website that allows anyone to add, delete or revise content by using a web browser.” The term wiki is also used as a verb; if you wiki, you are either researching a topic on a wiki or contributing to one. As reflected in the terms WikiLeaks and Wikipedia, wiki is sometimes used in creating blended words or portmanteaus: a wikiholic devotes a vast amount of time to wiki-based projects. Similarly, a Wikipedian is a person who enthusiastically contributes to Wikipedia.

The word has been translated into a number of languages. In Estonian it is viki; in Welsh it is wici.

A word from one language that enters another is called a loanword. Wiki is not the only word on loan from Hawaiian. Aloha, which means “hello,” “love” and “good-bye,” is used frequently by English speakers. Mahalo, luau, hula and kahuna are other notable examples.

There are some Hawaiian words that for one reason or another will probably never be adopted by the English language. An example would be humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Tell us what you think the word means, or what it sounds like it should mean, and we will add the most creative offering to the blog post later (as well as the actual definition.)

**Thank you for all the creative definitions of humuhumunukunukuapuaa, which is of course “either of two triggerfishes of Indo-Pacific coral reefs.”  Our pick for the most creative comes from Mark: “A small, carniverous marsupial that lurks in trees and drops down onto prey. The straight Translation means ‘Furred Domination in the skies.’” Lucky for us, the actual creature is far more benign.**

Incidentally, avocado is a loanword too, and the Aztecs called it the “fertility fruit.” Here’s why.

58 Comments

  1. Gary Cobus -  October 29, 2014 - 10:46 am

    I spoke to someone recently that thought WIKI is an acronym for: “What I Know Is…”

    Reply
  2. Iris -  August 20, 2014 - 6:54 am

    Came here to find the meaning of the term “wiki”but all comments relate to a state fish. Since the writer still seeks a definition, I would suggest a derivative of wicker since it is, after all, the weaving of useful information and sounds like the term from which wiki could have been derived.

    Reply
  3. Barley Mow Brewing Co -  June 26, 2014 - 11:29 am

    Asking questions are truly pleasant thing if you are not understanding something completely, but this paragraph provides
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    Reply
  4. Tim -  November 19, 2013 - 7:22 pm

    Humuhumunukunukuapuaa is the state fish of Hawaii. I know this is not a very creative answer, but it’s the correct answer. I should know, I live in Hawaii.

    Reply
  5. sixtus -  October 11, 2013 - 3:40 pm

    humunuhumunukunukuapuaa has no meaning

    Reply
    • sleeve -  July 7, 2014 - 3:46 pm

      humuhumunukunukuapuaa is the state fish of hawaii.

      Reply
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  8. John D -  June 11, 2013 - 6:39 am

    I always thought WIKI was an acronym for

    What I Know Is………………….. Kinda fits the parameters of what a WIKI is and does.

    Reply
  9. hannah hageman -  October 11, 2012 - 9:27 pm

    what does wiki mean and where was it originated for neeed to know for an exam thanxs hannah xxxxxx

    Reply
  10. Taff -  July 31, 2012 - 6:18 am

    coincidentally, the letters W I K I can be a good acronym for What I Know Is :)

    Reply
  11. wally -  May 6, 2012 - 7:01 pm

    State fish is correct. Someone said something about a song. It is the title of a Disco Biscuits song (no, they are not a disco band, it’s an old term for quelude but but now means ecstasy).

    Reply
  12. Etta Malaji -  December 21, 2011 - 4:38 pm

    So, “Wiki-” used as a prefix on the web means “unreliable information.” What’s popular is true. Good to know. ^~^

    Reply
  13. LeAnn -  June 16, 2011 - 2:15 pm

    Wow, I thought “wiki” was an abbreviation for “what I know is…”
    Now I know it’s not correct, but it was my best guess at the time.

    hee hee

    Reply
  14. Matt Storrin -  June 12, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    Unbelievable…sorry..I was typing realllllly fast. LOL

    Reply
  15. Matt Storrin -  June 12, 2011 - 10:14 pm

    And now we have the company WIKIGulp which is swallowing up competition. So when you combine wiki which means “fast” and use it with “gulp” is to swallow up or consume in one giant or big swallow… you inturn get a company doing just that…swallowing up fast every social media company and thus: WIKIGulp is created. By the way…the site? UNBELEIVABLE. They are being heralded as “Facebook on Steroids.”

    Reply
  16. katie -  November 24, 2010 - 8:39 pm

    The obvious:
    why do you bother saying that every article?
    sounds to me someone with a very grumpy nature is bored.

    Reply
  17. Cass -  October 6, 2010 - 10:27 pm

    It’s a fishie

    Reply
  18. forex robot -  August 6, 2010 - 9:28 am

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

    Reply
  19. cj -  August 2, 2010 - 10:58 pm

    its the state fish of Hawaii.

    Reply
  20. WP Themes -  August 2, 2010 - 3:09 am

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  21. THE OBVIOUS -  July 29, 2010 - 4:17 pm

    Good thing this blog explained what a Wiki was, because the tools who actually read this site are too dumb to know it!

    Reply
  22. adnan -  July 29, 2010 - 12:04 am

    Thank you for providing very interesting facts and useful information!

    .dictionary.com/

    Reply
  23. eddi -  July 28, 2010 - 9:41 pm

    On a bright Hawaiian New Year’s Day…

    Reply
  24. WIKILEAKS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 28, 2010 - 10:58 am

    [...] “WIKILEAKS” is no disaster — another lesson learned is wikifaster — and where the heck did DEMOCRAZY go. — Besides the politicians — it’s the Subdural Hematoma Transmissions — that other wise would never see the light of day. — The unconscious way we’re dying is Status Quo confining. — Free thinking tells us that there’s got to be a better way. — Rules aren’t made for fools. — Unless it’s fools that make the rules — and we do need better schools. — It depends on what you hear when someone speaks. — If it’s all about your General self — then fall off the Continental shelf. — “Take these chains from my heart” and “WIKILEAKS”. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhymes [...]

    Reply
  25. Jonel -  July 28, 2010 - 10:49 am

    Now I kno what humuhumunukunukuapuaa means. Thank you Dictionary.com.

    Reply
  26. kussy -  July 28, 2010 - 10:35 am

    Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Humuhumunukunukuapuaa
    IT MEANS A FISH THAT SEEKS FOR VENGENCE UPON THE HOSTILE TALIBANS WHO COULDN’T TEACH BABIES HOW TO FLY. SCIENTIFFIC NAME FOR IT IS THE RHINOUSORAUS FISHITISIDHRITOROSOICISHFISH

    Reply
  27. chinatown -  July 28, 2010 - 10:27 am

    it means triggerfish eyeballs or toothpaste

    Reply
  28. Caroline -  July 28, 2010 - 9:36 am

    Oh, my grandma taught me that one! “humuhumunukunukuapuaa” is the Hawaiian name for the trigger fish.

    Reply
  29. Daniel -  July 28, 2010 - 9:15 am

    Well, some people have given it away, like Joe, who said that it is the first Hawaiian word that he ever learned; unless his teacher was an idiot, he gave it away; however…it SOUNDS like it should mean those rings that you see around the moon on some nights…one ring would be a humukunuapuaa, and when you see two rings, well..you get “the word of the day”

    Reply
  30. Cara -  July 28, 2010 - 8:45 am

    I know what it means, but I’d like to think it means the grains of black sand stuck in your hair after falling asleep on Hanamanu Beach after your car was stolen and you coulnd’t catch a ride back to your hotel.

    Reply
  31. D-Rod -  July 28, 2010 - 8:33 am

    “Humuhumunukunukuapuaa” is the thing to say,
    On a bright Hawaiian New Year’s Day…

    Reply
  32. lauren wilson -  July 28, 2010 - 8:15 am

    we would just call it the trigger fish

    Reply
  33. lauren wilson -  July 28, 2010 - 8:13 am

    its the name for the state fish in hawaii

    Reply
  34. dadleseif -  July 28, 2010 - 7:50 am

    humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Isn’t that the tune you hum while you’re waiting to complete your business in the bathroom?

    Reply
  35. D-Rod -  July 28, 2010 - 7:45 am

    “Humu-humu” means “humorous”
    “Nuku-nuku” means “nuclear”
    “Apua’a” means “ape”

    So this is the Hawaiian word for “humorous nuclear ape.”

    I think.

    Reply
  36. Rosalie -  July 28, 2010 - 7:22 am

    THANK YOU! This has been driving me nuts for weeks.

    Reply
  37. Mark -  July 28, 2010 - 7:19 am

    humuhumunukunukuapuaa means “islanders on the other side of dreaming” and literally refers to the various Polynesian inhabitants of the dreamtime island of humuhumunukunu, more commonly referred to as the kahuna’s “portal to the void.”

    Reply
  38. Anne Cooney -  July 28, 2010 - 7:16 am

    If Ralph Kramden were Hawaiian, it’s what he would say when his wife, Alice, caught him in a crazy situation with his pal, Norton. The English-language “hum-a-nah” said 3 times REALLY fast becomes, in Hawaiian, “humuhumunukunukuapuaa” — of course, I could be wrong. ;0)

    Reply
  39. Mark -  July 28, 2010 - 7:13 am

    humuhumunukunukuapuaa : A small, carniverous marsupial that lurks in trees and drops down onto prey. The straight Translation means “Furred Domination in the skies”. Due to human expansion, they have been known to be forced out of their natural climate, and lurk on rooftops, mistaking pedestrians for targets, and have ruined many a fine hat. They are otherwise known as a ‘Dropbear’ in Australia

    Reply
  40. Jaydub -  July 28, 2010 - 7:05 am

    LOL! @Joe: xDDDD That was hilarious.

    aaaaaaaaaaand, I had no idea what that word meant, until I looked it up =D

    Reply
  41. Dan Shanley -  July 28, 2010 - 7:03 am

    Humuhumunukunukuapuaa is a genus of reef triggerfish and the official state fish of Hawaii. I only know this because it’s also the name of the computerised fish that helps teach children in the classroom…of the starship Enterprise.

    Reply
  42. RiNi -  July 28, 2010 - 6:33 am

    it sounds like a lawnmower starting when you say it out loud. Let’s go with lawnmower.

    Reply
  43. Michael Dadona -  July 27, 2010 - 10:59 pm

    Thanks for the explanation about WIKI definition and the meaning. Honestly speaking, this is my first time heard about it. I asked myself, why I didn’t bother about it earlier? till your article published.

    Reply
  44. Joe -  July 27, 2010 - 10:43 pm

    It’s the Hawaiin pronounciation of a Culture Club song.

    Reply
  45. brreeves -  July 27, 2010 - 10:22 pm

    humuhumunukunukuapuaa sounds like it should mean that your humming along to the radio, but your off pitch or something haha. or that you are doing reallly bad karaoke? ha.

    Reply
  46. Jeremy -  July 27, 2010 - 10:18 pm

    It reads from the movie “Mary Poppins” supercalifragilisticexpialidocious… so could it be a fun and spunky word? This guessing is tickling!

    Reply
  47. tracey harris -  July 27, 2010 - 10:18 pm

    its what the natives say with when they can see some humans coming that they dont recognise…humanhumansarecoming (or did i read wrong)

    Reply
  48. Joe -  July 27, 2010 - 10:07 pm

    Humuhumunukunukuapuaa was literally the first hawaiian word I ever learned. It’s some sort of little fish I think. I expect its barely as long as its name written out.

    Reply
  49. Marcio -  July 27, 2010 - 10:06 pm

    the worst food in the world =)

    Reply
  50. Alex -  July 27, 2010 - 10:03 pm

    Its the name for a fish!

    Reply
  51. Saronjess -  July 27, 2010 - 10:00 pm

    humuhumunukunukuapuaa means welcome? I know I’ve heard it somewhere, I even remember hearing a song about it…does it mean to care? I give up!

    Reply
  52. Danielle -  July 27, 2010 - 9:58 pm

    Humuhnuhmkajfkkkelyahktkofnu is obviously the most delicious food in this planet!

    Reply
  53. Robert -  July 27, 2010 - 9:48 pm

    At any rate, Wiki is a fun word!

    Reply

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