Semisi Ma`ia`i

Born in the village of Leifiifi on the island of `Upolu, Semisi Ma`ia`i is a doctor of medicine and holds the Sāmoan orator's title, Papaāli`i. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1954 and, after graduation from medical college, married Jenny, a Pākehā New Zealander who was then working as a nurse in Wellington. They moved first to New Plymouth and then to Auckland, where they raised two children.

Semisi wrote his Sāmoan dictionary Tusi 'Upu Sāmoa over this period. Forty years later, in 2010, it was published by Little Island Press, the first such dictionary to be written by a Sāmoan. Semisi and Jenny now live in Wellington, where Semisi continues to write.

By this author

Sāmoan Odyssey takes us on a journey through the Pacific diaspora. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century thousands of Sāmoans left their island homes to live in far-flung countries. They went for self-betterment although they were among their nation’s best. Semisi Ma`ia`i was one of the first of his generation to make this journey. Here, he tells his life story.


Tusi`upu Sāmoa is a long-awaited dictionary of Sāmoan, the first comprehensive work of its sort written by a Sāmoan, Papaāli`i Dr Semisi Ma`ia`i.

The work of over 40 years by one man, while working full time and helping raise a family, it is a comprehensive collection and explanation of Sāmoan words.