• synonyms


[mel-uh-nee-zhuh, -shuh]
  1. one of the three principal divisions of Oceania, comprising the island groups in the S Pacific NE of Australia.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for melanesia

Historical Examples

  • There is more pure plutocracy in Melanesia than in New York.


    William Graham Sumner

  • In Vao, as in all Melanesia, the pig is the most valued of animals.

  • The pig-cult, or “Suque,” is found almost all over Melanesia.

  • Complete totemism is not asserted here, and is denied for Melanesia.

  • But, after all, Melanesia is becoming more and more a substantial reality.'

British Dictionary definitions for melanesia


  1. one of the three divisions of islands in the Pacific (the others being Micronesia and Polynesia); the SW division of Oceania: includes Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Louisiade, Solomon, Santa Cruz, and Loyalty Islands, which all lie northeast of Australia
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Word Origin

C19: from Greek melas black + nēsos island; with reference to the dark skins of the inhabitants; on the model of Polynesia
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for melanesia


one of three large divisions of Pacific islands, 1840, from a continental language, from melano- + nesos "island" (see Chersonese) + -ia. Modeled after Polynesia and meant to signify "the islands inhabited by blacks."

La Melanesia comprende la grande isola Australia, e quelle degli arcipelaghi di Salomone, di Lapèrouse, di Quiros, e dei gruppi della Nuova Caledonia, di Norfolk, e della Diemenin. A cagione dei Neri Oceanici, che, quasi esclusivamente, ne popolano le regioni, questa parte della Oceania ebbe dai moderni geografi e viaggiatori (il Graberg, il Rienzi, il d'Urville, ec.) il nome di Melanesia. ["Corso di Geografia Universale," Firenze, 1839]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper