Oceania (UK /ˌʃɪˈɑːniə, ˌsɪ-/ or US /ˌʃˈæniə/), also known as Oceanica, is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Opinions of what constitutes Oceania range from its three subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia to, more broadly, the entire insular region between Southeast Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago.

The term is often used more specifically to denote a continent comprising Australia and proximate islands or biogeographically as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia apart either from New Zealand or from mainland New Guinea).

    Etymology and semantics

    The term was coined as Océanie circa 1812 by geographer Conrad Malte-Brun. The word Océanie is a French language word derived from Latin word oceanus, and this from Greek word ὠκεανός (ōkeanós), ocean. Natives and inhabitants of this region are called Oceanians or Oceanicans.


    A map of Oceania from the CIA World Factbook

    As an ecozone, Oceania includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, along with New Guinea and nearby islands, part of Philippines islands, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, constitute the separate Australasian ecozone. In geopolitical terms, however, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are almost always considered part of Oceania, and Australia and Papua New Guinea are usually considered part of Oceania too. The rest are Maluku Islands and Papua, as Puncak Jaya is often considered the highest peak in Oceania.


    Oceania was originally conceived as the lands of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the coast of the Americas. It comprised four regions: Polynesia, Micronesia, Malaysia (now called the Malay Archipelago), and Melanesia (now called Australasia). Today, parts of three geological continents are included in the term "Oceania": Eurasia, Australia, and Zealandia, as well the non-continental volcanic islands of the Philippines, Wallacea, and the open Pacific. The area extends to Sumatra in the west, the Bonin Islands in the northwest, the Hawaiian Islands in the northeast, Rapa Nui and Sala y Gómez Island in the east, and Macquarie Island in the south. Not included are the Pacific islands of Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese archipelago, all on the margins of Asia, and the Aleutian Islands of North America.

    The islands at the geographic extremes of Oceania are Bonin, a politically integral part of Japan, Hawaii, a state of the United States, and Easter Island, belonging to Chile. There is also a smaller geographic definition that excludes land on the Sunda Plate but includes Indonesian New Guinea on the Australian continent.


    Biogeographically, Oceania is used as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia apart either from New Zealand or from mainland New Guinea).


    Oceania is one of eight terrestrial ecozones, which constitute the major ecological regions of the planet. The Oceania ecozone includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, New Guinea, Melanesia apart from Fiji, and Australia constitute the separate Australasian ecozone. The Malay Archipelago is part of the Indomalaya ecozone. Related to these concepts are Near Oceania, that part of western Island Melanesia which has been inhabited for tens of millennia, and Remote Oceania which is more recently settled.


    In the geopolitical conception used by the United Nations, International Olympic Committee, and many atlases, Oceania includes Australia and the nations of the Pacific from Papua New Guinea east, but not the Malay Archipelago or Indonesian New Guinea.

    Other definitions

    • The term is often used to denote a continent comprising Australia and proximate islands.
    • New Zealand forms the south-western corner of the Polynesian Triangle. Its indigenous Māori constitute one of the major cultures of Polynesia. It is also, however, considered part of Australasia.
    • The widest definition of Oceania includes the entire region between continental Asia and the Americas, thereby including islands in the Pacific Rim such as the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, and the Aleutian islands.
    Satellite image of Oceania
    Ethno-cultural definition of Oceania




    Wider Geographic Oceania.
    Little of the South Pacific is apparent at this scale, though Hawaii is just visible near the eastern horizon.

    Area 10,975,600 km2 (4,237,700 sq mi)
    Population 37.8 million (2010)
    Time Zones UTC+7 (Western Indonesian Time) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
    Largest Cities Jakarta

    Narrower Geographic Oceania.
    Island Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia (apart from New Zealand)

    Area 183,000 km2 (71,000 sq mi)
    Population 5.2 million (2008)
    Time Zones UTC+9 (Palau) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
    Largest Cities Honolulu

    The demographic table below shows the subregions and countries of geopolitical Oceania. The countries and territories in this table are categorized according to the scheme for geographic subregions used by the United Nations. The information shown follows sources in cross-referenced articles; where sources differ, provisos have been clearly indicated. These territories and regions are subject to various additional categorisations, of course, depending on the source and purpose of each description.

    Name of region, followed by countries
    and their flags
    Population Population density
    (per km²)
    Capital ISO 3166-1
     Ashmore and Cartier Islands (Australia) 199
     Australia 7,686,850 23,034,879 2.7 Canberra AU
     Christmas Island (Australia) 135 1,493 3.5 Flying Fish Cove CX
     Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia) 14 628 45.1 West Island CC
     Coral Sea Islands (Australia) 10 4
     New Zealand 268,680 4,465,900 16.5 Wellington NZ
     Norfolk Island (Australia) 35 2,302 61.9 Kingston NF
     Fiji 18,270 856,346 46.9 Suva FJ
     New Caledonia 19,060 240,390 12.6 Nouméa NC
     Maluku Islands (Indonesia) 74,505 1,895,000 ML
     Papua 319,036 3,486,432 11 Jayapura PA
     West Papua 140,375 760,855 5.4 Manokwari PB
     Papua New Guinea 462,840 5,172,033 11.2 Port Moresby PG
     Solomon Islands 28,450 494,786 17.4 Honiara SB
     Vanuatu 12,200 240,000 19.7 Port Vila VU
     Federated States of Micronesia 702 135,869 193.5 Palikir FM
     Guam (United States) 549 160,796 292.9 Hagåtña GU
     Kiribati 811 96,335 118.8 South Tarawa KI
     Marshall Islands 181 73,630 406.8 Majuro MH
     Nauru 21 12,329 587.1 Yaren (de facto) NR
     Northern Mariana Islands (United States) 477 77,311 162.1 Saipan MP
     Palau 458 19,409 42.4 Ngerulmud PW
    Wake Island (United States) 2 150 Wake Island UM
     American Samoa (United States) 199 68,688 345.2 Pago Pago, Fagatogo AS
     Cook Islands (New Zealand) 240 20,811 86.7 Avarua CK
     Easter Island (Chile) 164 5,761 31 Hanga Roa CL
     French Polynesia (France) 4,167 257,847 61.9 Papeete PF
     Hawaii (United States) 16,636 1,360,301 81.8 Honolulu US
     Niue (New Zealand) 260 2,134 8.2 Alofi NU
     Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom) 5 47 10 Adamstown PN
     Samoa 2,944 179,000 63.2 Apia WS
     Tokelau (New Zealand) 10 1,431 143.1 Nukunonu TK
     Tonga 748 106,137 141.9 Nukuʻalofa TO
     Tuvalu 26 11,146 428.7 Funafuti TV
     Wallis and Futuna (France) 274 15,585 56.9 Mata-Utu WF
    Total 8,919,530 41,050,699 4.4
    Total minus mainland Australia 1,232,680 19,022,699 14.8
    Map of nations and territories of Oceania, including Maluku Islands, Australia and New Zealand
    Geographic map of islands of Oceania


    Archaeology, linguistics, and existing genetic studies indicate that Oceania was settled by two major waves of migration. The first migration took place approximately 40 thousand years ago, and these migrants, Papuans, colonized much of Near Oceania. Approximately 3.5 thousand years ago, a second expansion of Austronesian speakers arrived in Near Oceania, and the descendants of these people spread to the far corners of the Pacific, colonizing Remote Oceania.

    Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies quantify the magnitude of the Austronesian expansion and demonstrate the homogenizing effect of this expansion. With regards to Papuan influence, autochthonous haplogroups support the hypothesis of a long history in Near Oceania, with some lineages suggesting a time depth of 60 thousand years. Santa Cruz, a population located in Remote Oceania, is an anomaly with extreme frequencies of autochthonous haplogroups of Near Oceanian origin.


    The predominant religion in Oceania is Christianity (73.3%). A 2011 survey found that 65.6% of Australia and New Zealand population, 92.1% in Melanesia, 93.1% in Micronesia and 96.1% in Polynesia described themselves as Christians.

    Traditional religions are often animist, and prevalent among traditional tribes is the belief in spirits (masalai in Tok Pisin) representing natural forces. In recent Australian and New Zealand censuses, large proportions of the population say they belong to "No religion" (which includes atheism, agnosticism, deism, secular humanism, and rationalism). In Tonga, everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith. The Ahmadiyya mosque in Marshall Islands is the only mosque in Micronesia. Another one in Tuvalu belongs to the same sect. The Bahá'í House of Worship in Tiapapata, Samoa, is one of seven designations administered in the Bahá'í Faith.


    Multi-sport games

    Australia has hosted two Summer Olympics: Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000. Also, Australia has hosted four editions of the Commonwealth Games (Sydney 1938, Perth 1962, Brisbane 1982, Melbourne 2006), and is scheduled for a fifth (Gold Coast 2018). Meanwhile, New Zealand has hosted the Commonwealth Games three times: Auckland 1950, Christchurch 1974 and Auckland 1990.

    The Pacific Games (formerly known as the South Pacific Games) is a multi-sport event, much like the Olympics on a much smaller scale, with participation exclusively from countries around the Pacific. It is held every four years and began in 1963. Australia and New Zealand will be competing in the games for the first time in 2015.

    Association football (soccer)

    The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is one of six association football confederations under the auspices of FIFA, the international governing body of the sport. The OFC is the only confederation without an automatic qualification to the World Cup. Currently the winner of the OFC qualification tournament must play off against a North, Central American and Caribbean confederation side to qualify for the World Cup.

    Currently, Vanuatu is the only country in Oceania to call football its national sport. However, it is the most popular sport in Kiribati, Solomon and Tuvalu, and has a significant (and growing) popularity in Australia.

    Oceania has been represented at five World Cup finals tournaments — Australia in 1974, 2006, 2010, and 2014, and New Zealand in 1982 and 2010. In 2006, Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation and qualified for the 2010 World cup as an Asian entrant. New Zealand qualified through the Oceania Confederation, winning its playoff against Bahrain. This made 2010 the first time that two countries from (geographic) Oceania had qualified at the same time, albeit through different confederations.

    Australian rules football

    Australian rules football is the national sport in Nauru and is the most popular football code in Australia in terms of attendance. It has a large following in Papua New Guinea, where it is the second most popular sport after Rugby League.


    Fans welcome to the Australian team in Sydney after winning 2007 Cricket World Cup

    Cricket is a popular summer sport in Australia and New Zealand. Australia had ruled International cricket as the number one team for more than a decade, and have won five Cricket World Cups and have been runner-up for two times, making them the most successful cricket team. New Zealand is also considered a strong competitor in the sport, with the New Zealand cricket team, also called the Black Caps, enjoying success in many competitions. Both Australia and New Zealand are Full members of the ICC.

    Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are some of the Associate/Affiliate members of the ICC in Oceania that are governed by ICC East Asia-Pacific. Backyard cricket and Beach cricket, which are simplified variants of cricket played at home or on a sand beach, are also popular recreational sports in Australia. Trobriand cricket and Kilikiti are regional forms of cricket adapted to local cultures in the Trobriand Islands and Samoa respectively.

    Cricket is culturally a significant sport for summer in Oceania. The Boxing Day Test is very popular in Australia, conducted every year on 26 December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne.

    Rugby league football

    Rugby league is the national sport of Papua New Guinea (the second-most populous country in Oceania after Australia) and is very popular in Australia. It attracts significant attention across New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

    Australia and New Zealand are two of the most successful sides in the world. Australia has won the Rugby League World Cup a record ten times (most recently defeating New Zealand 34-2 in 2013) while New Zealand won their first World Cup in 2008. Australia hosted the second tournament in 1957. Australia and New Zealand jointly hosted it in 1968 and 1977. New Zealand hosted the final for the first time in 1985–1988 tournament and Australia hosted the tournament again in 2008.

    Rugby union football

    Fiji playing the Cook Islands at seven-a-side rugby

    Rugby union is one of the region's most prominent sports, and is the national sport of New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. Fiji's sevens team is one of the most successful in the world, as is New Zealand's.

    New Zealand and Australia have won the Rugby World Cup a record two times each (tied with South Africa who have also won it two times). New Zealand won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 which was hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Australia hosted it in 2003 and New Zealand hosted it in 2011.

    The Super Rugby features five provincial teams from Australia and five from New Zealand.

    See also