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[yoo-kuh-ley-lee; Hawaiian. oo-koo-ley-ley] /ˌyu kəˈleɪ li; Hawaiian. ˌu kʊˈleɪ leɪ/
a small, guitarlike musical instrument associated chiefly with Hawaiian music.
Also, ukelele.
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ukelele
  • On the other hand, a calf-high sock pulled ukelele-string-tight doesn't look so hot.
  • There were also several musical selections accompanied by ukelele.
British Dictionary definitions for ukelele


a small four-stringed guitar, esp of Hawaii
Word Origin
C19: from Hawaiian, literally: jumping flea, from `uku flea + lele jumping
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ukelele



1896, from Hawaiian 'ukulele, literally "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 Portuguese instrument introduced to the islands c.1879.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ukelele in Culture
ukulele [(yooh-kuh-lay-lee)]

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

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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