One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In certain Polynesian islands: an open space used either as a meeting-place, or as a ceremonial area, or both, usually in the centre of a village; (also sometimes) a stone-faced platform for religious purposes; (in Tonga also) a burial ground.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in John Martin (1789–1869), meteorologist. From Samoan malae open space, meeting ground, Tongan mala'e, market-place, graveyard, and forms in related languages.
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