Besides their mythology, the origin of all Samoan villages, places, and titles is described in some legend or other. After the first war in Manu'a, when Elo avenged the four brothers from Pulotu, the couples which escaped were Sa and Vaii whose combined names were given to the island now known as Savai'i; U and Polu who repopulated Upolu; Tutu and Ila who repopulated Tutuila. Manu'a, however, means “wounded,” and the name was given because the son of the first chief of Manu'a is said to have been born with a wound on his head. Ta'u, the largest island in Manu'a was called by that name after a daughter of Tagaloa who was said to be dumb and could only utter U. Ta'u means “repeating U.” Sega was the first chief of Olosega, he took Olo, a daughter of the chief of Ta'u to wife, and their combined names were given to that island. Ofu, the third island in the Manu'a group, was named after another daughter of Tagaloa who was wrapped up or clothed in tapa cloth, and Ofu means “clothed.”
Tui Manu'a, the chief of Ta'u, claims descent from Tagaloa-Lagi, and to be the first and real king of Samoa. The family name of the Tui Manu'a is Moa from which it is claimed that the name Samoa originated. Sa denotes the possessive case, so Samoa can be interpreted to mean “Moa family.” Sa also means “sacred” or “prohibited,” so the version held by the people of Western Samoa is that the moa was once a sacred bird, and it was protected, or prohibited, hence the name of Samoa. The Manu'a version seems the more probable.
Tui means “lord” or “king” so the Tui Manu'a is lord or king of Manu'a, who claims, as I have said before, to be the first king of Samoa. Tui-Ofu, now represented by the chief Misa, is the chief of Ofu, and so of Tui-Olosega in Olosega.
Tutuila is divided into two political districts, east and west. Another name for Tutuila is Motu o Salaia or the islands of Salaia. It is claimed that this name was given it by the daughter of Tutu and Ila who was named Salaia. There is also an Upolu version that this name was given by a chief of Upolu who claimed the whole of Tutuila. The chiefs of Upolu always exercised a great inflôence in Tutuila, and there are legends confirming the rights of the Upolu chiefs over Tutuila, but it would only create controversy to recount them.
Upolu is divided into three large districts, Atua, Aana and Tuamasaga. These districts found their names from Tua, Ana, and Saga, the descendants of Pili and Sinaletava'e, daughter of Tuiaana Tavaetele.
The Tuiaana of Aana, Tuiatua of Atua, Natoaitele and Tamasoalii of Tuamasaga, are titles conferred on the leading chiefs by the capital towns; Malietoa is also a title conferred by Tuamasaga.
Manono and Apolima, the two islands between Upolu and Savai'i, are said to have been named by Tupuivao, son of Taufau the first queen of Samoa, after Nono and Sauma from Fiji, sons of Tuifiti. Manono means “given to Nono,” while Sauma is still the official style of Apolima. The name Apolima means “almost within grasp of the hand,” and this name is given by travellers between the islands, who note that whereas Apolima seems within hand-grasp, it takes a good time to pass.
Savai'i is also known as Salafai from Lafai, son of Vaasiliifiti. The sons of Lealali some 21 generations ago were Tupainatuna, Tupailelei, and Tupaisiva.
Tuitonga took to wife a daughter of the Tuifiti and had issue one Laufafa-e-toga, a girl. This Laufafa, hearing of the wonderful beauty of Tupailelei, came to Samoa to seek his hand. On arrival here she found Tupailelei was not the handsome man he was reputed to be, so she accepted his brother Tupainatuna. When she was ripe to give birth to her first child she asked to be taken to Tonga for her confinement. On the way to Tonga they met with a heavy storm, and their boat passed Tonga and landed in Fiji. A boy was born who was named Vaasilifiti which means “the boat over-reached herself to Fiji.” In the fulness of time again, she agreed to let Tupainatuna bring her back to Samoa, but just as Samoa was sighted, she gave birth to a girl, who was named Samoa-ua-fotu, or “Samoa is sighted.” For short, she was known as “Fotu,” hence the village of Safotu on the north coast of Savai'i. Vaasilifiti lived in Taoa, now known as Safune, two miles below Safotu. Vaasilifiti took to wife two women of Upolu—Feenaga of Sagaga and Feeata of Faleata. These women, according to Samoan custom, came home for their fanauga (confinement), and both had issue of a son; and after a while Vaasilifiti came up to take his wives and sons to Savai'i. On the way down they passed a fune (core of a bread-fruit) being nibbled at by fish, so Feenaga named her son Fune. Further on, they caught a fai (stingray or skate) and with the skin of it they made a sail for their boat, so the other boy was named Lafai (sail made of fai). Fune waxed strong, and founded the four Safune villages in Savai'i, while Lafai had many children who populated the rest of Savai'i, and that is how Savai'i became known as Salafai. Three took up the east coast of Savai'i and divided the districts so equally that they were known as the fair three. No disputes were allowed, hence the name Faasaleleaga, meaning “strife is barred.” Faasaleleaga is one of the three large districts of Savai'i, the other two known as Le-itu-o-tane (male branch) and Le-itu-o-fafine (female branch) are said to have found their names by the children of Laufafa-e-tonga by one Lautala who took her to wife after the death of Tupainatuna. There were two sons Utu and Taua who stayed on the north coast and founded the villages Matautu and Sataua, while their sister Lega lived on the south coast now known as Salega, hence the male branch and the female branch.
There are various origins assigned to the names of the different villages. The following is one version of the origin of the name of the town of Apia.
Before the advent of the white man, the Samoans lived mostly some little distance from the sea, and not along the coast as they do now. They came to the sea only to fish and to fetch sea-water for food purposes. The chief from Solo-solo came to this bay with a party of his fishermen, and finding it a good fishing place at that time (it is so no longer), they built huts by the seashore and stayed a few days. A daughter of one of the leading chiefs of the place came down with her retinue of girls to take sea-water back to the village, and found these huts and the fishing party. She went back to the village and reported that the bay was inhabited; or in Samoan Ua apia le faga. Api is the word used in many Polynesian dialects to signify “habitation” or “homestead” and in Samoan it conveys the meaning “temporary abode.” The version given by von Bulow is that Apia was derived from apilitia or apitia, when that term was used to describe the plight of the Manono people in a war which took place here. There were many Manono killed, who were buried near where the ice-works stand now, hence the name Tanugamanono (the burial place of Manono). Apilitia means “hemmed in” or “surrounded,” and for short apitia is sometimes used, and according to von Bulow it was further abbreviated to apia.