Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific. Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited.
The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 miles) in a north-south line located at about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii.
Tonga also became known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga, the islands' paramount chief, and received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, in reality the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.
Tonga is also the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonisation. In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step towards becoming a fully functioning constitutional monarchy after legislative reforms paved the way for its first ever fully representative elections which resulted in the election of Noble Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō as its first democratically elected Prime Minister.
In many Polynesian languages, Tongan included, the word tonga means "south", as the archipelago is the southernmost group of islands of central Polynesia. The name is pronounced as [ˈtoŋa];. The pronunciation /ˈtɒŋɡə/, popular in American English, is incorrect.