Polynesia (Gr. polys, 'many,' nesos, 'island'), a term applied collectively by some writers to all the Pacific islands of strictly oceanic character - i.e. either of volcanic or coralline origin; by others restricted to the eastern groups inhabited by the brown Polynesian race. Here it will be taken in the broader sense so as to include all the Pacific lands east of the Philippines, New Guinea, and Australia, except Japan, the Kuriles, Aleutians, Queen Charlotte, Vancouver, Revil-lagigedo, and Galapagos, which are geographical dependencies of the surrounding Asiatic and American continents. These Polynesian, or 'south Sea' islands (most of them annexed by one of the greater European powers), are distributed over a hundred degrees of longitude from New Britain (149° E.) to Easter Island (109° 17' W.), and across seventy degrees of latitude from Hawaii (23° N.) to Stewart Island at the southern extremity of New Zealand (47° 20' S.). But the aggregate extent of dry land in this boundless expanse of some 11 million square miles scarcely exceeds 170,000 sq. m., of which nearly two-thirds are comprised in the New Zealand Archipelago, while the total pop. is probably less than 1,500,000. Polynesia comprises the three broad divisions of Micronesia, Melanesia, and East Polynesia, which are determined partly by geographical position, and partly by ethnological conditions, and each of which is again subdivided into several secondary groups. Thus, Micronesia (Gr. mikros, 'small,' nesos, 'island') lies in the extreme north-west almost entirely north of the equator, and consists exclusively of small volcanoes and atolls, forming the five archipelagoes, all inhabited by heterogeneous populations in which most of the oceanic and perhaps some of the continental elements are represented. So also Melanesia (Gr. melas, 'black') lies in the extreme west entirely south of the equator, and consists mainly of comparatively large upraised crystalline, coralline, and volcanic islands disposed in parallel chains from north-west to southeast, forming eleven archipelagoes, all inhabited by the Melanesian or dark Oceanic race. Lastly, East Polynesia lies on both sides of the equator, mainly east of a line drawn from New Zealand between Fiji and Samoa to Hawaii, and consists of twelve volcanic and coralline archipelagoes (suitable), besides the large sedimentary and igneous region of New Zealand and numerous sporadic islets, such as Norfolk, Chatham, Rapaiti, Easter, Manihiki, Tongareva, Uvea, and many others. This division is the exclusive domain, apart from recent white immigrants, of the large brown race, commonly called ' Polynesians' in a special sense. The table shows the size, area, and political connection of these multitudinous groups.

Group.

Area in sq. m.

Pop.

State.

Micronesia -

Marina....................

450

2,000

Ger. and U.S.

Pelew....................

200

12,000

Germany.

Caroline....................

400

30,000

Germany.

Marshall....................

160

15,000

Germany.

Gilbert (Kingsmill)

170

35,000

England.

Melanesia -

Admiralty...................

770

2,000

Germany.

Bismarck....................

16,000

188,000

Germany.

D'Entrecasteaux........

1,100

1,000 (?)

England.

Louisiade....................

870

2,000 (?)

England.

Solomon....................

16,300

175,000

Eng. and Ger.

Santa Cruz.............

200

5,000

England.

Banks....................

190

4,500

England.

New Hebrides..........

5,000

62,000

Independent.

New Caledonia..........

6,500

43,000

France.

Loyalty....................

. 1,100

20,000

France.

Fiji..............................

8,000

120,000

England.

East Polynesia -

Hawaii....................

6,700

154,000

Un. States.

Phœ;nix....................

15

60

England.

Ellice.................................

14

3,300

England.

Tokelau..................

12

520

England.

Samoa....................

1,000

35,000

Germany.

Tonga....................

450

30,000

England.

Kermadec..........

40

100

England.

Austral....................

105

1,400

France.

Cook (Hervey).......

140

11,500

England.

Tahiti (Society).......

600

17,000

France.

Tuamotu (Low).......

360

5,600

France.

Marquesas..........

480

6,000

France.

New Zealand..........

104,000

772,720

England.

Lying almost entirely within the tropics, and consisting nearly everywhere of igneous or coralline groups exposed to the same atmospheric and marine currents, Polynesia presents great uniformity in its climatic and biological conditions (New Zealand, however, differs widely). The rainfall is generally high, the flora relatively rich, the fauna remarkably poor, especially in mammals. There is a general consensus that Polynesia has been occupied from prehistoric times by two distinct races, the dark Melanesians, who belong to the same stock as the Papuans of New Guinea and Malaysia, and the brown Polynesians, called also Mahori and Sawaiori, whose racial affinities have not been satisfactorily determined. Nearly all the Pacific languages appear to be members of the great Malayo-Polynesian family; however it is to be explained, both the dark and brown peoples speak idioms derived from a common stock. For over a century the Oceanic peoples have been in contact with Europeans, and nearly all the Polynesians, 8s well as many of the Melanesians, profess some form of Christianity - the first mission established being that to Tahiti in 1797 by the London Missionary Society. But as western influences increase, the races themselves decrease. See works by Ellis (1829), Sir George Grey (1855), De Quatrefages (1866), Pritchard (1866), Angus (1867), Moresby (1877), Fornander (1878-86), Gill (1880), Keane (1880), and Codrington (1891), and the articles on the separate groups.