Highest Respect for Tongan Women

Sesika Fifita as mehikitanga takes money gift presented by the dancer.
Mehikitanga accepts her share of food presentation.

In Tongan society, the women or the sisters outrank the males or brothers in the family unit. Accordingly, the language used is one of respect. 

This value and respect the women’ rank is evident in cultural celebrations where the male or brother performs his duty to his paternal aunty and sisters. They are culturally elevated, and honoured fakalāngilangiʻi with presentations of food, gifts of money, fine mats and tapa. The language follows these cultural values where one’s ‘eiki or chiefly side of the family is always referred to with politeness and respect.

We are celebrating International Womenʼs Day with a vocabulary theme of words which describe women and their roles within the family.

  • ta’ahine (n) girl, lady. Also regal word for woman or chiefʼs daughter.
  • finemu’i (n) young girl not yet married
  • ‘ofefine (n) describes daughter of a man.
  • tuofefine (n) describes sister of a male
  • fefine (n) woman, girl (adj) female
  • fafine (n) (adj) plural. girl, women, females
  • faʻē (n) mother
  • mehikitanga (n) fathers sister, paternal aunt
  • fine’eiki (n) lady (polite) word for wife
  • finemotu’a (n) elderly woman, married woman. (derogatory) word for wife
  • kui fefine (n) grandmother

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