Hawaii is the 50th and most recent State to have joined the United States of America, having received statehood on August 21, 1959. Hawaii is the only U.S. state located in Oceania and the only one composed entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is the only U.S. state not located in the Americas.
The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian archipelago, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1500 mi. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are—in order from northwest to southeast: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawai. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the "Big Island" or "Hawaii Island" to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago. The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.
Hawaii's diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches, oceanic surroundings, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. Because of its central location in the Pacific and 19th-century labor migration, Hawaii's culture is strongly influenced by North American and Asian cultures, in addition to its indigenous Hawaiian culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents, along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
Hawaii is the 8th-smallest and the 11th-least populous, but the 13th-most densely populated of the fifty U.S. states. It is the only state with an Asian plurality. The state's coastline is about 750 mi long, the fourth longest in the U.S. after the coastlines of Alaska, Florida, and California.
The state of Hawaii derives its name from the name of its largest island, Hawaii. A common Hawaiian explanation of the name of Hawaii is that was named for Hawaiiloa, a legendary figure from Hawaiian myth. He is said to have discovered the islands when they were first settled.
The Hawaiian language word Hawaii is very similar to Proto-Polynesian *Sawaiki, with the reconstructed meaning "homeland". Cognates of Hawaii are found in other Polynesian languages, including Māori (Hawaiki), Rarotongan (ʻAvaiki) and Samoan (Savai'i) . According to linguists Pukui and Elbert, "elsewhere in Polynesia, Hawaii or a cognate is the name of the underworld or of the ancestral home, but in Hawaii, the name has no meaning".
Spelling of state name
A somewhat divisive political issue arose in 1978 when the Constitution of the State of Hawaii added Hawaiian as a second official state language. The title of the state constitution is The Constitution of the State of Hawaii. Article XV, Section 1 of the Constitution uses The State of Hawaii. Diacritics were not used because the document, drafted in 1949, predates the use of the ʻOkina and the kahakō in modern Hawaiian orthography. The exact spelling of the state's name in the Hawaiian language is Hawaii.The ʻokina, which resembles an apostrophe and precedes the final i in Hawaii, is a consonant in Hawaiian and phonetically represents the glottal stop . In the Hawaii Admission Act that granted Hawaiian statehood, the federal government recognized Hawaii as the official state name. Official government publications, department and office titles, and the Seal of Hawaii use the traditional spelling with no symbols for glottal stops or vowel length. In contrast, the National and State Parks Services, the University of Hawaiʻi and some private enterprises implement these symbols. No precedent for changes to U.S. state names exists since the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1789. However, the Constitution of Massachusetts formally changed the Province of Massachusetts Bay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1780, and in 1819 the Territory of Arkansaw was created but was later admitted to statehood as State of Arkansas.