Samoa Languages

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Description[edit | edit source]

Samoan and English are the official languages in Samoa. Including second-language speakers, there are more speakers of Samoan than English in Samoa. [1]

Samoan Language
Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most of the Samoa Islands' population of about 246,000 people. With many Samoan people living in other countries, the total number of speakers worldwide is estimated at 510,000 in 2015. It is the third-most widely spoken language in New Zealand, where 2.2% of the population, 101,900 people, were able to speak it as of 2018.

The language is notable for the phonological differences between formal and informal speech as well as a ceremonial form used in Samoan oratory. [2]

English Language
English is the second language and all islanders can speak English as well. There are several levels of spoken language.

Word List(s)[edit | edit source]

Samoan Genealogical Word List

Brief Vocabulary
a of, particle used in many ways
a'oga school
ai eat
a'u I, me
ali'i man of rank, chief
alofa love
asu smoke from a fire
Atua God
alu go
aumai get or bring
fa'a In the way of, fa'a Samoa, the Samoan way
fa'afetai thank you
fa'amolemole please
faia'oga teacher
fale house, falea'oga- school house
galuega work
i in, particle denoting position
ie togafine mat
Kerisimasi Christmas. The Samoan word for Christ is Keriso and Kerisian for Christian.
lava commonly used like saying "enough" in English
lavalava clothes, particularly a wrap-around cloth
le the, definite article, plural e
leaga bad
leai no, none, gone
lelei good
lei ivory
matua parent
mai from
motu island
moa chicken
manuia happy, lucky, Manuia le aso
manuia le kerisimasi merry christmas
matai title of extended family chief
o of
oka okaoka, exclamation of surprise
papalagi also palagi, anglos
palolo segmented sea creature that comes out of the coral to breed (and be eagerly eaten)
sa sacred, forbidden
sami sea
sau come
talofa hello
tapu forbidden
taupou title for position of village maiden
timu rain
tofa goodbye
toga fine mat, very valuable
tupe money
tusi write, tusitala, person who writes stories
'ukulele small stringed instrument, you know it!
'ula garland of flowers, 'ulalei, garland of ivory
ulaula smoke
ulu breadfruit
va'a canoe
va'alele airplane, 'flying canoe'
vai water

Learning to Count
1. tasi
2. lua
3. tolu
4. fa
5. lima
6 ono
7. fitu
8. valu
9. iva
10. sefulu
11. sefulutasi, 12. sefululua, 13. sefulutolu, 14. sefulufa, etc.
20. luasefulu, 30. tolusefulu, 40. fasefulu, 50. limasefulu, etc.
21. luasefulutasi, 22. luasefululua, 23. luasefulutolu, etc.
100. tasi selau, 200. lua selau, etc.

enaena brown
lanumeamata green
lanumoli orange
lanumoana blue
mumu red
pa'epa'e white
piniki pink
samasama yellow
uliuli black
viole, mumu pa'auli purple

A Few Words Borrowed from English
Kerisimasi Christmas
kolisi college
moa lawn mower
musika music
nusipepa newspaper
sikareti cigarette
telefoni telephone
televise television

Alphabet and Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Samoan is from the Austronesian family of languages. It is closely related to other Polynesian languages, especially Tongan.

Here is a very cursory overview of the language and some vocabulary.

  • Consonants: p,t,m,n,g,f,v,s, and a glottal stop, '
  • A glottal stop is when you start a vowel with your throat closed, as usually is done in English. If you didn't, the word 'apple' would sound like 'happle.'
  • More letters k,h and r were added to the Samoan alphabet for foreign or borrowed words. To complicate things for the beginner, in the common vernacular some consonants are transposed when spoken: l for r and k for t. Thus the name Maria can become Malia and telefoni can become kelefoni.
  • The "g" is pronounced with "ng" sound, so Pago Pago is pronounced Pahngo Pahngo. You can have fun correcting your educated friends with this one.
  • Vowels: a,e, i, o, u pronounced generally as in romantic languages such as Spanish and Italian.

The Samoa Alphabet consists of 14 letters, with another three letters (H, K, R) used in loan words. The ʻ (koma liliu or ʻokina) is used for the glottal stop.

Aa, Āā Ee, Ēē Ii, Īī Oo, Ōō Uu, Ūū Ff Gg Ll Mm Nn Pp Ss Tt Vv (Hh) (Kk) (Rr)
/a/, /aː/ /ɛ/, /eː/ /ɪ/, /iː/ /o/, /ɔː/ /ʊ, w/, /uː/ /f/ /ŋ/ /l, ɾ/ /m/ /n, ŋ/ /p/ /s/ /t, k/ /v/ (/h/) (/k/) (/ɾ/) /ʔ/

Vowel length is phonemic in Samoan; all five vowels also have a long form denoted by the macron. For example, tama means child or boy, while tamā means father.

Labial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ  
Plosive p t (k) ʔ
Fricative f v s   (h)
Lateral   l    
Rhotic   (r)    

The consonants in parentheses are only present in loanwords and formal Samoan.
In formal Samoan, used for example in news broadcasts or sermons, the consonants /t n ŋ/ are used. In colloquial Samoan, however, /n ŋ/ merge as [ŋ] and /t/ is pronounced [k]. [3]

Language Aids and Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Language Aids


  • G B Milner, Samoan dictionary : Samoan-English, English-Samoan, Auckland, N.Z. : Pasifika Press, 2001 - Available at WorldCat
  • George Pratt, A Samoan dictionary : English and Samoan, and Samoan and English, Memphis : General Books, 2012 - Available at WorldCat

Online Dictionaries

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]



  • Galumalemana Afeleti L Hunkin, Gagana Sāmoa : a Samoan language coursebook, Honolulu : University of Hawaiiʻ Press, 2009 - Available at WorldCat
  • Alan P Johnson, Lillian E Harmon & F Ronald Haymore, An introduction and guide to the Samoan language for missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Auckland, N.Z. : Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1977 - Available at WorldCat

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Samoa," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,'as%C4%81moa)%20and%20English%20are%20the,speakers%20of%20Samoan%20than%20English%20in%20Samoa., accessed 14 Jun 2021.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Samoan language," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 14 Jun 2021.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Samoan language," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 14 Jun 2021.