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Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a sovereign state and an archipelago comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. Fifty-two of these islands are inhabited.Lengthwise, the Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line located 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 inasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tui Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.Tonga is the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonisation. In 2010, it took a decisive step towards becoming a fully functioning constitutional monarchy, after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections.EtymologyIn many Polynesian languages, Tongan included, the word tonga means "south", as the archipelago is the southernmost group of islands of central Polynesia. In Tongan, the name is pronounced as, and it is commonly pronounced as or in English. The name of Tonga is cognate to the Hawaiian region of Kona.

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