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Polynesia (pŏlĭnēˈzhə, –shə) [key] [Gr., = many islands], one of the three main divisions of Oceania, in the central and S Pacific Ocean. The larger islands are volcanic; the smaller ones are generally coral formations. The principal groups are the Hawaiian Islands (see Hawaii), Samoa, Tonga, and the islands of French Polynesia. Ethnologically though not geographically, Polynesia also embraces New Zealand. Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken in Polynesia. The Polynesians were skilled navigators and sailors, and the Pacific islands they settled were often separated by enormous expanses of open ocean.

See T. Barrow, Art and Life in Polynesia (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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