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A Grammar and Dictionary of the Samoan Language, with English and Samoan vocabulary

3. Adjectives

3. Adjectives

Some adjectives are primitive, as umi, long; poto, wise. Some formed from nouns by the addition of a, like y in English; as word, wordy; thus, ʻeleʻele, dirt; ʻeleʻelea, dirty; palapala, mud; palapala, muddy. Others are formed by doubling the noun; as pona, a knot; ponapona, knotty; fatu, a stone; fatufatua, stony. Others are formed by prefixing faʻa to the noun; as ʻo le tu faʻasamoa, a Samoan custom. Like ly in English, the faʻa often expresses similitude; ʻo le amio faʻapuaʻa, swinish conduct. In one or two cases a is prefixed; as apulupulu, sticky, from pulu, resin; avanoa, open; from va and noa.

Verbs are also used as adjectives: ʻo le ala faigata, a difficult road; ʻo le vai tafe, a river, flowing water; ʻo le laʻau ola, a live tree; also the passive: ʻo le aliʻi mataʻutia.

Ma is the prefix of condition, sae, to tear; masae, torn; as, ʻO le iʻe masae, torn cloth; Goto, to sink; magoto, sunk; ʻo le vaʻa magoto, a sunken canoe.

A kind of compound adjective is formed by the union of a noun with an adjective; as ʻo le tagata lima malosi, a strong man, lit. the stronghanded man; ʻo le tagata loto vaivai, a weak-spirited man.

Nouns denoting the materials out of which things are made are used as adjectives: ʻo le mama auro, a gold ring; ʻo le fale maʻa, a stone house. Or they may be reckoned as nouns in the genitive. (See Syntax.)

Adjectives expressive of colours are mostly reduplicated words; as sinasina, white; uliuli, black; samasama, yellow; ʻenaʻena, brown; mumu, red, etc.; but when they follow a noun they are usually found in their simple form; as ʻo le ʻie sina, white cloth; ʻo le puaʻa uli, a black pig. The plural is sometimes distinguished by doubling the first syllable; as sina, white; plural, sisina; tele, great; pl. tetele. In compound words the first syllable of the root is doubled; as maualuga, high; pl. maualuluga. Occasionally the reciprocal form is used as a plural; as lele, flying; ʻo manu felelei, flying creatures, birds.

Comparison is generally effected by using two adjectives, both in the positive state; thus e lelei lenei, ʻa e leaga lena, this is good—but that is bad, not in itself, but in comparison with the other; e umi lenei, a e puupuu lena, this is long, that is short.

The superlative is formed by the addition of an adverb, such as matua, tasi, sili, silisiliʻese aʻiaʻi, naʻua; as ʻua lelei tasi, it alone is good—that is, nothing equals it. ʻUa matua silisili ona lelei, it is very exceedingly good; ʻua tele naʻua, it is very great. Silisili ese, highest, ese, differing from all others.

Naua has often the meaning of “too much”; ua tele naua, it is greater than is required.


The cardinals are:—

  • E tasi, one.

  • E lua, two.

  • E tolu, three.

  • E fa, four.

  • E lima, five.

  • E ono, six.

  • E fitu, seven.

  • E valu, eight.

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  • E iva, nine.

  • E sefulu, ten.

  • E sefulu ma le tasi, eleven.

  • E sefulu ma le lua, twelve.

  • E luafulu. or e lua sefulu, twenty.

  • E tolugafulu, thirty.

  • E fagafulu, forty.

  • E limagafulu, fifty.

  • E onogafulu, sixty.

  • E fitugafulu, seventy.

  • E valugafulu, eighty.

  • E ivagafulu, ninety.

  • E selau, one hundred.

  • E lua lau, two hundred.

  • E tolugalau, three hundred.

  • E afe, one thousand.

  • E lua afe, two thousand.

  • E tolugaafe, three thousand.

  • E mano, ten thousand.

E mano is the utmost limit. The natives do not say, e lua mano, but all beyond mano is manomano, ilu; that is, innumerable.

Hazlewood, in his Fijian Grammar, regards the particle e as a kind of article. It would seem rather to be the verbal particle, because the numerals take ua and sa, instead of e; as, ua valu, there are eight. When joined to nouns of time e is omitted before the numeral: ʻE po fitu, seven nights, but, E fitu o matou po, our nights are seven.

“Numerals in the Melanesian languages are used as nouns, adjectives, and verbs.” (Codrington, p. 237.) E sefulu, it is tenned; here it is a verb.


ʻO le muamua, or ʻo le uluaʻi, first.

ʻO le lua, second.

ʻO le tolu, third, etc.

Months are counted differently after the second—

ʻO le toluga masina, the third month.

O le faga masina, the fourth month, etc., up to the ninth, after which the ordinary counting is followed.

The numeral adverbs, once, twice, etc., are expressed by atu; as O le atu tasi, once; ʻO le atu lua, twice, etc.

Another method is by prefixing faʻa; as Ua ʻou sau faʻalua, I have come twice.

Distributives are formed by prefixing taʻi; as taʻitasi, one by one, one at a time; taʻilima, five each, or by fives. Toʻa is added in counting persons; as taʻitoʻalua, two at a time, or in pairs.

Thicknesses of things doubled, or folds, are expressed by prefixing to the cardinal number sautua; as sautualua, doubled; sautuatolu, threefold, etc.

Very many things are counted each in its own peculiar way. A knowledge of this is absolutely necessary, as being always used by the natives, and also to prevent mistakes; thus, to say, ʻo iʻa e lualau, instead of meaning two hundred, would mean only two.

The following are the principal forms:—

Men are counted by prefixing toʻa: e toʻatasi, one; e toʻatinoagafulu, ten.

Young pigs and cocoa-nuts by affixing oa, or in couples; as e luaoa, four; e fagaoa, eight. The odd one being expressed separately; thus, o popo e onogaoa ma le popo e tasi, thirteen.

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Cocoa-nuts by the score; thus, e seaea, twenty; e luaea, forty; e tolugaea, sixty.

Fowls, broadfruit, and some shell-fish; e tasi, one (as often with other things); e luafua, two; e tolugafua, three; e fuagafulu, ten; e fualua, twenty; e fuaselau, one hundred.

Crayfish; when ten, e tuʻeagafulu; tuʻelua, twenty.

Fish; e lualau, two; e tolugalau, three; e lauagafulu, ten; e laulua, twenty; e lauselau, one hundred; e laulualau, two hundred; e lauafe, one thousand.

Bonito (not called iʻa by Samoans, except on Tutuila); ʻo atu e luatino, two bonitos; e tinoagafulu, ten.

Taro, e luamata, two; e matagafulu, ten; e matalua, twenty, etc.

Yams; units as cocoa-nuts, tens as bananas: ʻO ufi a ʻaulua, twenty yams, lit. twenty stems.

Bananas; le ʻaufaʻi, one bunch (or stem); e luaʻau, two bunches; e ʻauagafulu, ten; e ʻaulua, twenty.

Masi, in round cakes or balls (potoi); e potoiagafulu, ten; in flat cakes, afiagafulu, ten.

Native-made dishes (cooked in leaves); e faʻaʻofuagafulu, ten; ʻofulua, twenty.