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Title: ʻOkina  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Hawaii, Apostrophe, , Reference desk/Archives/Language/2010 August 24, Okina
Collection: Hawaiian English, Polynesian Languages, Uncommon Latin Letters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


ʻOkina letter forms
Hawaiian ʻokina The Hawaiian ʻokina or Tongan fakauʻa (Unicode U+02BB[1]), as it appears in the Lucida Sans font.
Tahitian ʻeta The Tahitian ʻeta or Wallisian fakamoga (currently not encoded separately), as it appears in the Lucida Sans font.
»ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi« (Hawaiian: Hawaiian Language) within single quotes, font: Linux Libertine. The glyph of the two ʻokinas is clearly different from the one of the opening quote.

The ʻokina, also called by several other names, is a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonetic glottal stop, as it is used in many Polynesian languages.


  • Names 1
  • Appearance 2
  • Orthography and official status 3
    • Geographic names in the United States 3.1
  • Computer encoding 4
    • Apostrophes and quotation marks 4.1
    • Unicode 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Area Vernacular name Literal meaning Notes
Hawaiian ʻokina separator transitionally formalized.
Historically, the ʻokina was commonly represented by the grave accent (`) on computer publications. More recently, the ʻokina has been represented incorrectly by the apostrophe ('). However, Word and Apple programs offer the correct typographical mark (ʻ).
Samoan koma liliu "inverted comma"—inverted (liliu) comma (koma) often replaced by an apostrophe in modern publications, recognized by Samoan scholars and community.[2]

Use of the apostrophe and macron symbols in Samoan words was restored by the Ministry of Education in 2012 after being removed in the 1960s.[3]

Tahitian ʻeta ʻetaʻeta = to harden no official or traditional status, may use ' or ‘ or ’
Tongan fakauʻa
(honorific for fakamonga)
throat maker officially formalized
Cook Islands Maori ʻamata or ʻakairo ʻamata "hamza" or "hamza mark" no official or traditional status, may use ' or ‘ or ’ or nothing
Wallisian (in ʻUvea) fakamoga by throat no official or traditional status, may use ' or ‘ or ’


The ʻokina visually resembles a left single quotation mark—a small "6"-shaped mark above the baseline.

The Tahitian ʻeta has a distinct shape, like an ʻokina turned 90° or more clockwise.

Orthography and official status

The ʻokina is a letter in the Hawaiian alphabet. It is unicameral, unlike the other letters (all of which are basic Latin letters). For words that begin with an ʻokina, capitalization rules affect the next letter instead (for instance, at the beginning of a sentence, the name of the letter is written "ʻOkina", with a capital O).

Geographic names in the United States

The United States Board on Geographic Names lists relevant place names both with and without the ʻokina and kahakō in the Geographic Names Information System. Colloquially and formally, the forms have long been used interchangeably.[4]

Computer encoding

Apostrophes and quotation marks

In the ASCII character set, the ʻokina is typically represented by the apostrophe character ('), ASCII value 39 in decimal and 27 in hexadecimal. This character is typically rendered as a straight typewriter apostrophe, lacking the curve of the ʻokina proper. In some fonts, the ASCII apostrophe is rendered as a right single quotation mark, which is an even less satisfactory glyph for the ʻokina—essentially a 180° rotation of the correct shape.

Many other character sets expanded on the overloaded ASCII apostrophe, providing distinct characters for the left and right single quotation marks. The left single quotation mark has been used as an acceptable approximation to the ʻokina, though it still has problems: the ʻokina is a letter, not a punctuation mark, which may cause incorrect behaviour in automated text processing. Additionally, the left single quotation mark is represented in some typefaces by a mirrored "9" glyph, rather than a "6", which is unsuitable for the ʻokina.


In the Unicode standard, the ʻokina is encoded as U+02BB ʻ modifier letter turned comma, which can be rendered in HTML by the entity ʻ (or in hexadecimal form ʻ).[1]

Although this letter was introduced in Unicode 1.1 (1993), lack of support for this character prevented easy and universal use for many years. But as of 2008, Apple Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux-based computers and all new major smartphones have no problem with the glyph, and it is no longer a problem in Internet Explorer 7 as it was in previous versions. U+02BB should be the value used in encoding new data when the expected use of the data permits.

The same character is used in Latin transliterations of the Hebrew letter ʻáyin and the Arabic letter ʻayn, as well as in Uzbek to write the letters (Cyrillic Ў) and (Cyrillic Ғ). However, "ʻokina" and other Polynesian names are properly reserved for the glottal stop in Polynesian language orthographies. Other glottal stop characters, such as U+02C0 ˀ modifier letter glottal stop, are inappropriate for the ʻokina.

The distinct form of the Tahitian and Wallisian glottal stop is not currently assigned a separate character in Unicode.

See also


  1. ^ a b Unicode Standard 5.1 Archived December 17, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Hunkin, Galumalemana Afeleti (2009). Gagana Samoa: A Samoan Language Coursebook. University of Hawaii Press. p. xiii.  
  3. ^ "Samoa to restore use of apostrophes and macrons". 25 November 2012. 
  4. ^ U.S. Board on Geographic Names: Collection and Dissemination of Indigenous Names (United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, Twenty-third Session Vienna, 28 March – 4 April 2006, Working Paper No. 82), S. 3: "An example of this has been the addition of the glottal stop (okina) and macron (kahako) to placenames of Hawaiian origin, which prior to 1995 had always been omitted. The BGN staff, under the direction and guidance of the Hawaii State Geographic Names Authority, has been restoring systemically these marks to each Hawaiian name listed in GNIS."

External links

  • The correct Unicode values and HTML entities for Hawaiian in Unicode
    • Kualono: Unicode on the Web
  • Apple compatibility with Hawaiian added in OS 10.2
    • Apple Computer Includes Hawaiian Language Support With Latest Operating System.
    • Honolulu Advertiser (September 2, 2002): I mua! Macintosh 'speaks' Hawaiian
    • Starbulletin (September 16, 2002): Macs upgrade to isle punctuation
    • SFGate (September 9, 2002): Hawaiian language advocates applaud new Mac operating system.
  • Honolulu Advertiser (June 28, 2004): Hawaiian spellings catch on, but slowly. (On slow progress in using proper Hawaiian spellings instead of makeshift English spelling.)
  • Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library: Browser information for viewing Hawaiian characters
  • The Okina in French Polynesian, a graphic example on the top of the page of the official website of the commune of Faa'a, capital of the French Polynesia (this explains why the INSEE still encodes it like the French apostrophe).
  • Polynesian Font hints and information on encoding.
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