group of islands in the South Pacific, constituting a division of French Polynesia: c. 613 sq mi (1,588 sq km); pop. 145,000; chief town, Papeete
so named (1769) by James Cook
See Society Islands in American Heritage Dictionary 4
An island group of French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean east of Samoa. The group is made up of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. First visited by a Portuguese navigator in the early 17th century, the islands were claimed for France by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1768 and named by Capt. James Cook in 1769. They became a French protectorate in 1843 and a part of the overseas territory of French Polynesia in 1946.