Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)



The islands were first inhabited by Polynesians from at least BC 1500. The first Europeans to arrive were the Dutch in 1722. During the C19th, Britain, America and Germany all had interests in the islands and administered them jointly from 1889-99 when they were divided into American Samoa and Western Samoa.

Western Samoa

Savai'i, Upolui

Capital : Apia

This was a German colony until the First World War and was administered by New Zealand from 1920, first as a League of Nations Mandate and after 1946, as a United Nations Trust Territory. It gradually achieved self-government and became fully independent within the Commonwealth in 1962 with Fiame Mata Afa Mulinu'u as prime minister and two traditional rulers as joint heads of state. When his colleague died, the survivor, Maleitoa Tanumafili II, became sole head of state for life. In 1976 Tupuola Taisi Efi was elected, the first prime minister who was not of royal blood.

In 1979, opposition politicians joined to form the Human Rights Protection Party which won the 1982 elections under Va'ai Kolone. He was replaced as prime minister later that year by Tupuola Efi but he resigned a few months later when his budget was not approved and the new HRPP leader, Tofilau Eti Alesana, took over. He continued in office after the HRPP won a decisive election victory in February 1985 but resigned at the end of the year. Va'ai Kolone returned to lead a government composed of independent candidates and members of the new Christian Democratic Party founded by Tupuola Efi (now Tofilau Tamasese Efi). In 1988, there was a hung parliament and Tofilau Eti Alesana ended up as prime minister. He introduced universal adult suffrage in 1990 and was re-elected in 1991 when Va'ai Kolone returned to lead the opposition. Tofilau Eti Alesana appointed Fiame Naomi as the first Western Samoan woman cabinet minister.

The country remains a Monarchy with English and Samoan as the languages spoken and Christianity as the main religion, with Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Mormonism all represented.

American Samoa

Capital : Pago Pago

These eastern Samoan islands were acquired by the USA in 1899 by agreement with Britain and Germany under the Treaty of Berlin. A constitution was adopted in 1960 and revised in 1967 but they remain a US territory. Languages spoken are English and Samoan and Protestants and Roman Catholics are the religious denominations.

Samoan Names


Afato Avele Issac Kalolo Laiafi Malaki
Mika Ofato Poto Saini Salesi Semo
Sila Sililo Tainafi Tao Tupa Va'iga


Tiresa Iloai        


Atuaia Benga Dufu Fa'amasino Falaniko Faletoese
Faletose Fanalua Fatasini Fatialofa Faumuina Finau
Fomai Fueunati Ienimea Iupeli Lapasa Latu
Leaupepe Lemanea Letoa Lima Matasino Matautia
Nam'ulu Nualitea Olopoto Papalu Paselio Patu
Perelini Puleitu Putupu Rokeni Seiuli Sini
Siteti Soamoa Sooalo Suaniu Tanielu Tatupu
Toleafoa Tuigamala Tuilagi T'valii Umaga Vaega
Vagana Vaifale        

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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