The term hapa comes from the Hawaiian Pidgin word that denotes a part or fragment of something, itself a loan from the English word half (adjective). When applied to people (noun), this denotes a person of mixed descent. The word hapa has increasingly entered the local languages and jargons of a variety of Asian ethnic groups both in Hawaii and on the mainland.

Mary Pukui and Samuel Ebert's Hawaiian Dictionary define hapa as: "of mixed blood, person of mixed blood as in hapa Hawaii, part Hawaiian."

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