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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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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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
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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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
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Bands incorporate various adopted instruments such as the ukulele-the backbone of the string band-guitar and banjo.
The ridiculous one is the maudlin glissando on ukulele and steel guitar, the
  tear-duct of popular music.
Activities range from bamboo pole fishing to kite flying, and lei making and
  learning the ukulele.
Now the ukulele permeates the culture to an extent that it hasn't in more than
  half a century.
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