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Samoan vs. Maori vs. Hawaiian: A Discussion of Cultural Variations

Samoan vs. Maori vs. Hawaiian: A Discussion of Cultural Variations

Māori, Samoan, and Hawaiian look similar due to their cultural heritage. They share the same culture, traditions, and beliefs. However, they don’t speak the same language and have certain characteristics that distinguish them.

Samoan, Hawaiian, and Māori are all Polynesians. They all belong to different islands of Polynesia. Samoans are the natives of Samoa, Māori are the ancient inhabitants of New Zealand, and Hawaiians are the initial inhabitants of Hawaii.

Hawaii is located on the northern side of Polynesia, whereas New Zealand is on the Southwestern side. However, Samoa is in the West of Polynesia. Therefore, their languages slightly differ from each other. The Hawaiian language has similarities with both Samoan and Maori languages. However, these languages, i.e., Samoan and Maori, are quite different.

Read on to explore more differences.

Who Are Polynesians?

Polynesians are a group of people who are natives of Polynesia (the islands of Polynesia), a vast area of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. They speak Polynesian languages, which are part of the Austronesian language’s family of Oceanic subfamily.

According to the study, Polynesians spread through Melanesia quickly, allowing only limited mixing between Austronesian and Papuans.

Things You Need To Know About Polynesian Languages

Polynesian languages are a group of roughly 30 languages that belong to an Austronesian language family’s Eastern or Oceanic branch. They are most closely linked to the languages of Melanesia and Micronesia.

The Polynesian languages, spoken by less than 1,000,000 people across a huge portion of the Pacific Ocean, are very much alike, showing that they have just scattered within the last 2,500 years out of an originating center in the Tonga-Samoa area.

Most experts agree that there are roughly thirty Polynesian languages. More than 500,000 people speak none, and only around half are used by a thousand or fewer individuals. Maori, Tongan, Samoan, and Tahitian are the languages having the most native speakers.

Despite growing competition from French and English, many Polynesian languages are unlikely to go extinct. Even though there was significant attrition among native speakers of Māori and Hawaiian in the nineteenth century, these languages are still used by many people around the globe.

Do You Know?

The Polynesian name of Easter Island, i.e., Pito in Te Pito-o-te-Henua, has been interpreted as ‘the center of the earth,’ it refers to the umbilical cord, not the navel, and the Pito in Polynesian language is figuratively the ‘extremity,’ not the ‘center.’

Carved buildings were used as ritual centers
Carved Buildings were used as ritual centers

Who are Samoans?

People who belong to Samoa are known as Samoans. Samoans are Polynesians who are linked to the indigenous people of French Polynesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Tonga.

Samoa is a group of islands in Polynesia about 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) northeast of New Zealand in the south-central Pacific Ocean. The 6 islands at the eastern longitude of 171° W comprise American Samoa, including Tutuila(a US dependency).

Samoa comprises nine inhabited and 5 unoccupied islands west of the meridian and has been an autonomous nation since 1962. Despite American Samoa’s concerns, the country was renamed simply Samoa in 1997, which was known as Western Samoa before.

Polynesians (most likely from Tonga) arrived on the Samoan islands around 1000 years ago. According to several experts, Samoa became the ancestral homeland for voyagers who inhabited much of eastern Polynesia around 500 CE.

The Samoan style of life, known as Fa’a Samoa, is based on communal living. The extended family is the most basic unit of the social setup. (it is known as Aiga in the Samoan language).

Despite years of foreign intervention, most Samoans fluently speak the Samoan language ( Gagana Samoa). However, the majority of American Samoans speak English.

About half of the population is affiliated with one of several Protestant faiths, the largest of which is the Congregational Christian Church.

Who Are Maoris?

The indigenous individuals of New Zealand are referred to as Māori. These individuals are supposed to have migrated to New Zealand over a thousand years ago and are a blend of several Polynesian civilizations.

Maori tattoo is well-known for their unusual full-body and face designs. They have a one-of-a-kind status as indigenous people with complete legal rights around the world. Many Māori cultural rituals are still practiced today in New Zealand.

Oratory in Māori, music, and formal receptions of guests, followed by the hongi (a traditional way to welcome guests by rubbing their noses with each other), and cooking of meals in earth ovens (hangi), on heated stones, are some of the rituals still in use.

All these customs are part of the Māori gatherings. Carved buildings that serve as meeting places and ritual centers in Maori villages are still being built.

Ancient inhabitants of Hawaii are known as Native Hawaiians
Ancient inhabitants of Hawaii are known as Native Hawaiians

Who Are Hawaiians?

The indigenous Polynesian residents of the Hawaiian Islands are known as the Native Hawaiians or simply Hawaiians. Hawaii was founded around 800 years ago with the arrival of Polynesians, supposedly from the Society Islands. 

The immigrants gradually became estranged from their native nation, forming a separate Hawaiian culture and identity. This involved the construction of cultural and religious centers, which were needed for the changed living conditions and necessary for an organized belief system.

As a result, Hawaiian religion emphasizes methods to exist and connect to natural surroundings, instilling a feeling of communal existence and specialized spatial awareness. Their houses had wooden frames, thatched roofs, and stone floors covered with mats.

Food was prepared in Imus, or holes in the soil, with hot stones; however, numerous food items, especially fish, were sometimes consumed uncooked.

Women were not allowed to eat good food. Men wore simply a girdle or a malo, and women a tapa, or paper’s cloth, and fiber skirt made of leaves, while both wore mantles draped over the shoulders on occasions. Native Hawaiians continue to struggle for self-government.

Do They Communicate In A Similar Language?

No, they do not speak the same language. Samoan (Gagana Samoa) is more similar to Hawaii (Hawaiian language) than Māori (New Zealand Maori language), yet Hawaii is also similar to Māori.

This is because Polynesians frequently migrated from one island to another. Māori and Hawaii (‘Ōlelo Hawai’i) are Eastern Polynesian languages with significant similarities. For example, the Hawaiian word “Aloha,” which means “hello” or “goodbye,” becomes “Aroha” in Maori because the letter “l” is not included in their alphabet. However, hello in Samoan is “Talofa”.

Native speakers are the people who can understand Māori and Hawaii the best.

Is There A Difference Between Maori And Samoan?

The Maoris are also Polynesians. Their traditions link to Savaii, formally Savaiki, the biggest island of the Samoan region, as their homeland.

All Polynesians don’t speak the same language now, but they did in the past. Even though they are people from different cultures, they have much in common.

Te Reo Māori, the language of New Zealand’s earliest migrant group, is one of the country’s official languages.

Samoan and Maori are the two languages commonly spoken by children in Aotearoa/New Zealand, after English. The survival of these Polynesian languages depends on their being passed on to future generations.

Is There A Difference Between Samoan And Hawaiian?

Hawaiians, often known as native Hawaiians, are Pacific Americans who trace their heritage directly to the Hawaiian Islands (people of the state are called Hawaii residents).

Samoans are individuals from Samoa, a country southwest of the Hawaiian Islands. Samoan people live in American Samoa. It is an unpopulated territory of the United States near Samoa but on the other edge of the Date Line.

Both Samoan and Hawaiian are mutually intelligible. However, Cook Island Maori has the advantage of becoming intelligible with the ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i, Tahitian, and Rapan languages.

Can Hawaiians And Maoris Communicate Effectively?

Both languages are pretty close, but they are not similar. However, they can understand each other and communicate effectively.

Tattoos or Tā moko in Maori culture were considered sacred
Tattoos or Tā moko in Maori culture were considered sacred

Is Maori a country?

 No, Maori isn’t a country. The majority of Maori people live in New Zealand. Over 98% of them. They belong there as the Indigenous people of New Zealand.

Is Hawaii Considered Polynesian?

Hawaii is the northernmost island group in Polynesia and is a true Polynesian. It encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian archipelago, which spans 1,500 miles throughout the central Pacific Ocean and comprises various islands.

Is Samoan A Polynesian Language?

Samoan is a Polynesian language spoken by Samoans on the islands of Samoa. The islands are divided administratively between the sovereign republic of Samoa and the US entity of American Samoa.

Which Of The Three Languages Would Be The Most Useful?

When a few parameters are considered, Samoan is the most useful language among the three. To begin with, the Polynesian language has by far the greatest number of speakers worldwide. There are over 500,000 speakers.

Most countries have Samoans than Maori or Hawaiian people. In New Zealand, for example, it must be the third or fourth most commonly spoken language.

Maori speakers are roughly “only” 2 times the number of Samoan speakers in New Zealand. Secondly, Gagana Samoa is one of the only three languages linked to an autonomous Polynesian nation.

The video further reveals the little-known facts about Maori and Hawaiians


  • Samoan, Maori, and Hawaiian share a common Polynesian heritage but have distinct languages.
  • Polynesians have their origins in the islands of Polynesia. They include groups such as Samoans, Maori, and Hawaiians.
  • Polynesian languages such as Samoan, Maori, and Hawaiian share similarities. However, they are not identical.
  • Samoans are native to Samoa, Maori to New Zealand, and Hawaiians to Hawaii.
  • Samoan is the most widely spoken of the three languages, with over 500,000 speakers worldwide.
  • While these cultures have differences, they share common genetic, linguistic, and cultural elements.
  • Understanding the distinctions among Samoan, Maori, and Hawaiian enhances our appreciation. It deepens our understanding of Polynesian diversity.
  • Polynesian languages, while unique and valuable, may not provide. The same international utility as more widely spoken languages.

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