What is your favourite loved up pet name for your significant other? It is babe? Baby? Bae? Honey? Hun? Sweetheart? Sweetie? Darling? Dear?
So many Samoan couples I know have adopted these English terms of affection, but until quite recently, I had no idea how many mushy nicknames we also have in the Samoan language. And some of them are ssoooo beautiful!
I learned most of these words from my growing addiction to old Samoan love songs. Years ago, some very good One Samoana friends helped kick start our collection of Samoan lyrics.
They so generously sent me a bunch of transcribed Samoan lyrics – over a hundred songs in less than a couple months! – and in the process, they introduced me to some of the most moving, most stunning Samoan love poetry I’d ever heard.
I mean, these love struck songwriters are talking about how life is like an arid a desert without that special someone. They’re saying stuff like, “please, forgive the deep desire in my eyes when I look at you”.
Another guy is comparing the power of his desire to the cresting of relentless ocean waves, and notes how his infatuation has made him almost blind with shyness.
(Oh my gosh, right?)
But these songs are also spattered with moving terms of endearment for the object of the songwriters’ affection. So many sweet words that you can use, too, if you want to change things up… add a bit of Samoan flavour to your romance.
The more you do, the more you’ll help us share and preserve some of the gorgeous depth of meaning in our beautiful Samoan language.
A Samoan Language Note
The Samoan word for my (our first person possessive pronoun) is either la’u or lo’u… but don’t ask me what the rule is for choosing between those pronouns. I’m still trying to figure that out!
All I know is, it’s something to do with how close to my heart or body the noun is…? And according to my mother, if I was a REAL Samoan, I would just know – magically – which possessive pronoun (la’u or lo’u) goes with which noun.
Since I haven’t earned my certificate of Samoan authenticity yet, for this list, I had to ask a real Samoan (thanks mom) to just tell us whether it’s la’u or lo’u that is supposed to precede each term of affection.
To get even more complicated, we actually have another first person possessive pronoun – si a’u. This one can replace either la’u or lo’u, and it is used to express a stronger degree of affection.
For example, I could say la’u uo (my friend) OR, if I want to show that I am more affectionate towards this friend, I would say si a’u uo. Get it? You’ll hear a lot of our terms of endearment preceded by si a’u, (instead of la’u o lo’u) just to add an extra layer of lurrrve.
Please note that some of these words are gender specific, like funa is a much more affectionate version of the word suga, which we’d only use to get the attention of a female. It wouldn’t be appropriate to use on a male, but then again… up to you. lol
Because I know most of these words from beautiful old Samoan love songs, where possible, I’ll include a YouTube clip of the song and then link you to the full lyrics in our Samoan Lyrics database.
Samoan Terms of Endearment and Affection
By the way, I also got my Samoan expert support to check that my understanding of the meanings of all these terms are correct – just so you know our list is legit :).
Let’s get started!
1. La’u Kapani
Tapani – which is informally pronounced with the k, so, kapani – is one of our milder terms of affection. It’s slang for companion or good friend. Girlfriends and boyfriends use it when they want to be cute but not overly mushy with each other. This word is appropriate for both male and female.
I first heard kapani in this classic jam by Penina o Tiafau.
Check out the full lyrics here: Aue ita e ua moe te’ite’i
By the way, if you go back to the beginning of this song, you might also notice the phrase, la’u keli. Keli sounds to me like another term of affection, but I couldn’t get that confirmed by my Samoan experts.
The literal meaning of keli is the back of a car, pickup or bus, that space where you would load cargo. Did our older folks somehow relate this word to a romantic attraction to someone? Maybe it means something like bootie? lol
If you know something about la’u keli, please let us know in the comments.
2. La’u Ma’asoama
If you don’t know the Rosa Pa’epa’e song about Ma’asoama, you gotta get to know it! It is a true classic of Samoan love songs:
(Full lyrics here: La’u Ma’asoama)
So we use ma’asoama the same way you would use darling or sweetheart, but it’s one of several Samoan terms of endearment that include the word ma’a, which means rock or stone. Why?
I can only tell you what I’ve heard – I’m not a hundred percent positive this is truth, but it can give us an idea, yeah?
I hear that the Samoan language identifies a lot of different kinds of rock or stone, probably because Samoa is volcanic and very rocky. Ma’asoama is, obviously, one kind of stone (I’m not sure which kind, though, sorry).
The thing is, our language is also very poetic, and stones are symbolic for lots of beautiful, more abstract concepts. I’ve heard words for stones used to refer to the heart of something (like the true meaning or purpose), or a strong foundation.
Things like that.
Anyway, in relation to love, stones seem to be symbolic of something powerful, eternal and of great worth.
Ma’asoama can refer to both male or female.
3. La’u Pele
You’re going to hear this term everywhere, in so many songs. Pele is our word for dearest, someone who is very close to you.
Probably my favourite musical use of the word is in this heart-breaker by legendary band Punialava’a, covered most memorably by The Five Stars:
(Full lyrics here: Oi La’u Pele ‘ea)
Pele is appropriate for either male or female.
In this next song, pele is used together with the name of a loved one.
4. La’u Manamea
Manamea just sounds so pretty… hear how those syllables just roll off your lips? This word is also used the same way as darling or sweetheart (or beloved, or lover).
In this classic jam by The Golden Ali’is, the songwriter refers to his darling Moana (girl’s name) as his manamea.
(Full lyrics here: Pele Moana)
Manamea is fine to use for either a male or female love.
5. Lo’u Au
Okay we’re actually going to use this next song for several terms of endearment – these lyrics really pack them in.
You just have to listen to the whole song. It’s from the classic Samoan band Fau’ula:
(Full lyrics here: Lo’u au e, la’u pele ea)
Au is another very commonly heard term of affection in Samoan songs. It refers to someone who is your absolute favourite – and I know I’m not totally certain how they work, but the possessive pronoun lo’u (instead of la’u) always makes the phrase feel more intimate to me.
Notice that this song (above) also includes pele and manamea in it. And then there’s:
6. Lo’u Tuinanau
Tuinanau includes the word nanau, which means urge or desire. Tui (in this case) refers to something that is poignant or piercing. So when you call someone your tuinanau, you’re expressing a lustful kinda desire for him or her.
The next term in the same song is:
7. La’u Tausala
This term is the first one on our list that is meant only for females. Tausala is our word for beauty, or princess.
Also in the same song is:
8. La’u Penina
Penina is the Samoan word for pearl. This term of endearment is also used only for females. It’s basically calling her your precious pearl.
Another affectionate phrase in that same Fau’ula song is:
9. La’u Ula Tifa
These guys are getting creative here. Ula is the Samoa word for garland, or lei. Tifa is most likely a kind of shell, as it also appears in the word tifaimoana (interpreted by some as treasure from the ocean).
So, you are my garland of precious shells.
Hmm.. Thank you? lol
This term of affection can be used for male or female.
10. La’u Ma’a Taua
Here’s another one that appears in the same, very busy Fau’ula song above.
Taua refers to something that is extremely important or of great value. We commonly use ma’a taua to mean a precious stone or gem, and of course the phrase can easily be ascribed to that someone special in your life, male or female.
I also love the use of this phrase in another very beautiful old Samoan jam:
(Full lyrics here: Avatu mo oe)
11. La’u Funa
I mostly hear this word used to address someone (a female) directly, as in… instead of calling your girlfriend by name to get her attention, you would say, funa. (The same way we use the word suga).
But it’s also okay to refer to her as yours, as in my special girl. In this case, the correct possessive pronoun is la’u.
Funa is a word that also features in the Fau’ula song above, but for me, it will always take me back to this gorgeous oldie from Punialava’a:
(Full lyrics here: Funa)
Quick pronunciation note: While the word is funa (with an n), in casual Samoan talk, we sometimes like to pronounce our n‘s like the ng in the word hanger. So, sometimes funa sounds like fuga (foo’ngah) lol.
12. La’u Fetu e Tasi
I’ve been waiting to get to this one because I love this song so much! And it’s Tiama’a – you can’t get much more classic Samoan band than these guys.
(Full lyrics here: Fetu e Tasi)
Someday I’m going to have to translate this entire song for you – it’s just that pretty – but fetu is the Samoan word for star. Tasi means (the number) one.
Fetu e Tasi means you are my one and only star… and that line they repeat at the end of the song, ‘leai ma seisi e fa’aluaina oe, honey,’ means… no one can replace you (literally, no one can be your double). Love it.
You can use this term for either a male or female love.
13. La’u Lupe
I almost didn’t include this one because it’s not as joyful as the others. While lupe is a deeply meaningful term of affection, it’s usually only used for a love that you have lost.
Lupe is the Samoan word for dove (or pigeon). We have a very old, tragically beautiful, very popular song about a lupe that has suddenly flown away. This one is sung most commonly at funerals. You can check out those lyrics (and a video of people singing it) here: La’u lupe ua lele.
The artist Misiluki Su’a has another version of the same song (same words) but with a different, more upbeat melody. I really like it: La’u lupe.
For the featured video for this term of endearment, though, let’s go back to Tiama’a. This is a completely different song – different words and music – but the theme is still, sadly, the same… my beloved lupe has escaped this world, leaving a trail of heartbreak:
(Full lyrics: La’u Lupe)
Okay let’s find a few more terms of endearment that are less… *sigh* sad.
Bonus: More Loved Pet Names
These next terms of affection I know I’ve heard in songs, but I can’t remember which ones. But I also hear these words a lot… just around. Friends, family, random people tryna holla (auuuu…).
These ones are fun:
I don’t hear this one used often with a possessive pronoun. It’s never ‘my fui’. I always hear it in sentences like, “‘uoi… magaia le fui gale.” (As in, ‘ohh, that fui is nice’ *wink* or *eyebrow raise*).
The literal meaning of fui is a grouping of something – like a group of birds or a bundle of grapes. How this became slang for someone you’re interested in romantically?
Who knows? lol
15. La’u Ka’a
This one is easy. It means, my boyfriend. So yes, this word is used for males, and another meaning for ka’a is just… to go out and enjoy time with friends. It’s not difficult to make this connection.
Oh, and yes, ka’a is the informal pronunciation of the word ta’a.
16. La’u Ma’amusa
Another ma’a term. This kind of rock is literally a smooth, flat stone that is used by children when they play hopscotch. Musa is the Samoan word for that game (hopscotch).
As a term of endearment, ma’amusa can refer to either your girlfriend or your boyfriend. But… why?
I don’t know. lol
17. Lo’u Ava
This one quite simply means, my wife. So yes, it is used for… your wife.
18. La’u Tane
Tane is the Samoan word for man (male), and this phrase means, my husband.
19. La’u Pe’u
Finally, we have the universal (probably the most common) Samoan slang word for boyfriend or girlfriend, awww look, it’s my pe’u.
You made it to the end of this gigantic list! Did you even know that half these terms existed?
I didn’t until I started paying attention to our most beautiful of classic Samoan love songs.
By the way, thank you to everyone who probably broke copyright laws to put these songs on YouTube for me to pinch for this post (and for our Samoan Lyrics site).
The thing is, if it wasn’t for them, soooo many of us would have never heard of these songs – the artists’ work would not have continued on to new generations, and our lives would not have been as blessed.
What are your favourite terms of affection from this list? Are you going to start using one or two of them? Have you already been using them?
Have I missed any of your favourites?
Talk to me, people.