ukulele

[yoo-kuh-ley-lee; Hawaiian. oo-koo-ley-ley]
noun
a small, guitarlike musical instrument associated chiefly with Hawaiian music.
Also, ukelele.


Origin:
1895–1900, Americanism; < Hawaiian ʿukulele leaping flea (ʿuku flea + lele to jump, leap), a nickname given to British army officer Edward Purvis (who popularized the instrument at the court of King Kalakaua), in reference to his lively playing style

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Collins
World English Dictionary
ukulele or ukelele (ˌjuːkəˈleɪlɪ)
 
n
a small four-stringed guitar, esp of Hawaii
 
[C19: from Hawaiian, literally: jumping flea, from `uku flea + lele jumping]
 
ukelele or ukelele
 
n
 
[C19: from Hawaiian, literally: jumping flea, from `uku flea + lele jumping]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

ukulele
1896, from Hawaiian 'ukulele, lit. "leaping flea," from 'uku "louse, flea" + lele "to fly, jump, leap." So called from the rapid motion of the fingers in playing it. It developed from a Port. instrument introduced to the islands c.1879. Abbreviated form uke is attested from 1915.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
ukulele [(yooh-kuh-lay-lee)]

A small guitar, developed in Hawaii, with four strings.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
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Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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