How to Say Uncle in Tongan: Formal and Informal Ways, Tips, and Examples

Learning how to say “uncle” in Tongan is a great way to connect with Tongan-speaking family members or friends. In this guide, we’ll explore both the formal and informal ways to express this kinship term. Keep in mind that the Tongan language may have regional variations, but we’ll focus on the standard usage unless otherwise noted. Let’s dive in!

Formal Ways to Say Uncle

When addressing someone older or in a formal setting, you can use the word “uncle” in Tongan as follows:

1. “Kaingalotu”

The most common formal word for “uncle” in Tongan is “kaingalotu.” This term is commonly used to address an uncle or older male relative in a respectful manner.

Example: Fakaʻapaʻapa mai ki a Kaingalotu! (Respectful greeting to an uncle!)

2. “Matapule”

The term “matapule” is also used to refer to an uncle, particularly when the person holds a high-ranking position within the community or is considered an authority. It signifies respect and acknowledgement of their status.

Example: Malo e lelei, Matapule! (Hello, Uncle!)

Informal Ways to Say Uncle

In more casual situations or when addressing close family members, you can use the following informal terms to say “uncle” in Tongan:

1. “Tuʻungafasi”

“Tuʻungafasi” is commonly used to address an uncle, especially if you share a close bond or have a friendly relationship.

Example: Malo e lelei, Tuʻungafasi! (Hello, Uncle!)

2. “ʻAfi”

The term “ʻafi” can also be used informally to address your uncle or a close family friend who is older than you.

Example: Fakaʻmalō ʻaupito ʻa ʻafi! (Thank you very much, Uncle!)

Tips for Using Uncle Terminology

1. Respectful Tone

When using any of the aforementioned terms, it is important to adopt a respectful tone, especially when addressing an older family member or someone occupying a position of authority.

2. Age Difference

In Tongan culture, it’s customary to address older individuals as uncles or aunts out of respect, even if they are not immediate relatives. This demonstrates the importance of acknowledging and honoring age differences.

3. Family Context

Understanding the context of your relationship with the person you are addressing will help you choose the appropriate term. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of formality, especially when meeting someone for the first time.

4. Observing Communication Styles

While Tongan is generally a formal language, it is essential to observe the communication styles of the individuals you are addressing. Some families may use more casual terms even in formal settings.

5. Pronunciation

Make sure to pay attention to correct pronunciation when using the Tongan terms for “uncle.” Practice speaking with native Tongan speakers or consult pronunciation guides to improve your skills.


Now that you have learned the formal and informal ways to say “uncle” in Tongan, remember to consider the context, maintain a respectful tone, and be aware of regional variations if they apply. Using the appropriate terminology will help you build stronger connections and show respect to your Tongan relatives and friends. So go ahead, confidently greet your uncles in Tongan and deepen your bonds!

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Written by Lena Ruth

Kia Ora! I'm Lena, your friendly language enthusiast with an uncanny love for the Polynesian dialect, especially Tongan. When I'm not creating comprehensive guides to help demystify basic Tongan phrases - from pet names like "beautiful woman" to fiery expressions like "you're mad" - I enjoy reading East Asian literature, taking peaceful walks by the beach or having fun cooking exotic recipes from various Polynesian islands. With roots deep enough to call Tonga "fiefia", I believe languages can bring us closer, bridging gaps beyond our balls (don't worry, that's just an idiom in Tongan!). Mālō aupito!

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