Variously translated as “Little Eyes,” “Little Stars,” “High-Born Stars,” or “Eyes of the Chief” – for Makali`i, the navigator of the great voyaging chief Hawai`iloa – the constellation not only marked the beginning of the new year, but was a guidestar for the great voyaging canoes which sailed the Pacific Ocean. It may also have been named for a famous farmer named Makali`i, who instituted innovative agricultural practices which kept the people from starvation. And, it is associated with a legendary Chief Makali`i who taxed hispeople into poverty, and hid their food in a net hung in the sky.
Makali`i also is known as Huihui, Huhui (group), Kūpuku (cluster), Nā-Huihui-o-Makali‘i (The Cluster of Makali‘i), Huihui-koko-a-Makali‘i-kau-i-luna (Makali‘i's rainbow colored nets hung above), Nā Wahine-o-Makali‘i (The wives of Makali‘i), Nā-kā-o-Makali‘i (The bailers of Makali‘i), and Nā-koko-a-Makali‘i (The nets of Makali‘i).English speakers know this constellation as the Pleiades.
In some traditions, Makali`i is a name for the star Hōkū`ula (Red Star), known to English speakers as Aldebaran.
The name also applies to months associated with the constellation or star. On the island of Hawai`i, Makali`i is the name of a month which falls at roughly the same time as the Georgian December. On O`ahu, the month is more closely aligned with the Georgian October. At these times of year, the constellation and star are prominent shortly after sunset, and are visible throughout much of the night. On Moloka`i, the name is given to a month comparable to April, when the star and constellation set in the evening and disappear from the Hawaiian sky.