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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.
Origin of ukulele
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 ukulele
  • 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.
  • Learn the basics of playing a stringed instrument with the ukulele.
  • They brought their languages and culture, including the guitar and ukulele.
  • She leads the whole group with singing and entertains with her ukulele, along with teaching others how to make haku lei.
  • At the age of three he discovered that he could play the ukulele.
  • Some of the activities include ukulele and arts and crafts.
  • My parents started me playing music from an early age as well: ukulele at age three, trumpet at age seven, and drums at age nine.
British Dictionary definitions for ukulele


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 ukulele

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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ukulele 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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