Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Kanaka n.

also Canaka, Kanacka
[Hawaiian kanaka, man]
(orig. Aus.)

1. a Pacific Islander, esp. one brought to Australia as an indentured labourer on the Queensland cotton or sugar plantations.

[US]R.H. Dana Two Years before the Mast (1992) 152: The long name of Sandwich Islanders is dropped, and they are called by the whites, all over the Pacific Ocean, Kanakas, from a word in their own language which they apply to themselves.
[US]Soulé, Gihon & Nisbet Annals of S.F. 266: Turn him [Sandwich Islander] out, he is a Kanaka!
[US]C. Abbey diary 30 Jan. in Gosnell Before the Mast (1989) 172: I all at once found myself enclosed by Kanackas. Never having been used to sit in the back seat with the niggers, I left.
[US]G.E. Clark Seven Years of a Sailor’s Life 136: Men from every nation. Dutch, Irish, English, Kanaka, Portuguese.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 73: Even the Sandwich Islanders have given us some assistance in their word Kanaka, which with them means simply a man, but which has, since the intercourse established between their distant home in the Pacific and California, become quite familiar to our ears.
[Aus]Trollope Aus. and N.Z. 133: Queensland at present is supplying itself with labour from the South Sea Islands, and the men employed are called Polynesians, or canakers, or islanders.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Feb. 4/3: When we see racy, grammatical, well-rounded sentences, combined with spelling that John Davies or a one-armed Kanaka would repudiate, we get our backs up.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 20 May. 1/6: A Queensland sugar-planter [...] remarked the other night — ‘White men are no good. Give me kanakas; I can make plenty of money out of them’.
[US]‘Frederick Benton Williams’ (H.E. Hamblen) On Many Seas 240: The remainder of the crew forward was composed of Kanakas and Western Island Portuguese.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 17 Feb. 11/2: In Queensland it is strictly forbidden by law to supply kanakas with grog.
[Aus]E. Waltham Life and Labour in Aus. 106: One white man, one Kanaka, or South Sea Islander, one fat Chinaman.
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 20 July 29/1: A band of big husky Kanakas, half drunk and with cigarettes in their mouths.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘Thirsty Island’ Three Elephant Power 75: The Manilamen and Kanakas [...] bring all the money they do not spend on the pearling schooner to the island, and ‘blow it in’, like men.
[UK]Marvel 5 June 3: I can’t even get a kanaka to come here. Shale is the only one who will stop.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 194: A bloke in one of those pubs down by the wharves started calling me a Kanaka, and a few other things.
[US]R.E. Howard ‘Fist and Fang’ Fight Stories May [Internet] These kanakas made us understand in their pidgin English that the village had been moved back in the jungle a way.
[Aus]E. Curry Hysterical Hist. of Aus. 237: These natives were known as Kanakas.
[US]L.F. Cooley Run For Home (1959) 353: These dames [...] do all their fun-lovin’ fornication with those wild-looking, double-jointed Kanakas!
[Aus]R. Fitzgerald Pushed from the Wings (1989) 146: Perhaps he’s got a bit of the tarbrush in him? Maybe Kanaka.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]Keowee Courier 1 Nov. 4/3: This man was known as Kanaka Tom, from a suspicion that he was from the Sandwich Islands.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Oct. 6/2: Your kanaka grievance is painfully local, and as your letter contains no geography, it looks rather a strong order that you are giving us. Can’t your local paper take up the heavy end of the log?

3. (also kanaky, Kanock) a Hawaiian, sometimes derog.

S. Parker Exploring Tour Beyond the Rocky Mountains 354: The Sandwich islanders, or kanakas, as the common people are called, have less activity of mind and body than the Indians of our continent .
W. Colton Deck and Port 339: This tree, with a half-naked kanacka climbing its shaft is the most effective picture of poverty.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Innocents at Home 468: There is no regular livery stable in [...] any part of the Kingdom of Hawaii; therefore [...] you must hire animals of the wretchedest description from the Kanakas. (i.e. natives.).
[US]J.H. Beadle Western Wilds 114: I like San Francisco for its variety. [...] there are French, Italian, and Spanish quarters, and not far off Kanakas, and ever-present Chinese.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 23 May 9/2: But it was well given, and would have been ‘ankored’ had the player taken the precaution to leave his head behind him and borrowed a Kanaka’s.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 372: A Kanaka’s bumboat came alongside.
[UK]B. Lubbock Bully Hayes 67: We saw them, coming hand over hand through the big rollers with that crawlin’ stroke o’ the Kanaka.
[US]B. DeVoto Across the Wide Missouri 197: They chattered [...] and mingled with the halfbreeds of all tribes and their dear friends the Yankees, Canucks, Mexicans, and Kanakas [DA].
[US]J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 304: We will f-- your black kanaky, / We will drink your goddamned saki, / BUT we wont come back to Wahoo any more.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 25: You’re just going to be fighting with the military police, the civilian police and the big Kanocks there.
R. Laudan Food of Paradise 63: The third person in the group, Keanu, a Hawaiian or kanaka, as the Hawaiians called themselves.

4. see Canuck n.

In compounds

Kanakaland (n.) (Aus.)

1. Queensland.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Aug. 15/1: If above is merely ‘occasional satirical reference,’ what must Kanakaland’s real every-day stingo journalism be?
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 10 July 1/3: They won’t have a chance to work off on the Queenslanders, though mayhap the [...] committee intend to ask the men from the kanaka country to get possession of the ball sometimes.

2. Hawaii.

‘Robert James’ Isles of Illusion: Letters from the South Seas 56: You see, in spite of talking of London I get back to Kanakaland.
Kanakalander (n.)

(Aus.) a Queenslander.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 17 Sept. 35/1: The limp Kanakalander gloomily looks up from his lounge.
[Aus]S J. Baker Aus. Lang. 186: Kanakalanders [...] used [of Queenslanders] during the closing decades of the last century when many Pacific island natives were imported.

In phrases

white Kanaka (n.)

(Aus.) a white person seen as having ‘gone native’ and as such disdained.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Nov. 11/3: It’s a treat to leave the sugar area where these ‘white Kanakas’ herd and get Outback where the ‘men’ live.