Definition of Austronesian in US English:



  • Relating to or denoting a family of languages spoken in an area extending from Madagascar in the west to the Pacific islands in the east.

    Also called Malayo-Polynesian
    • ‘The other group speaks an Austronesian language.’
    • ‘It has similarities to English as well as to the Austronesian languages spoken by the plantation laborers.’
    • ‘Archaeological evidence supports the commonly held theory that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 years ago.’
    • ‘Seven Austronesian languages are spoken, all of which belong to the Malayic Malayo-Polynesian group.’
    • ‘Today, Austronesian languages are spoken from Madagascar in the west, to Easter Island in the east.’
    • ‘Samoan belongs to a group of Austronesian languages spoken throughout Polynesia.’
    • ‘Small Austronesian languages are another area of current research.’


  • The Austronesian family of languages.

    • ‘The indigenous languages belong to the Central Oceanic branch of Eastern Austronesian and are divided into eastern and western branches.’
    • ‘He is continuing experiments on the Indo-European issues, and has new work on Austronesian in progress.’
    • ‘Some people argue against it, but I think the evidence for Austronesian is very strong.’


From German austronesisch, based on Latin australis ‘southern’ (see austral) + Greek nēsos ‘island’.