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or ukelele

[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.
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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ukulele
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Clayton was with him, strumming on a ukulele, as they talked, happily and lazily.

    Kit of Greenacre Farm

    Izola Forrester
  • If it happens that any folk are down from the uptown hotels, Peter Pan consents to sell a ukulele between his encores.

    Hints to Pilgrims Charles Stephen Brooks
  • And really with two violins, ukulele and piano we weren't a half bad orchestra.

    A "Y Girl in France

    Katherine Shortall
  • Do you know this step—to the Paradise whistle and ukulele and that new instrument, the Shiverskin, it's just great.

    Under the Law Edwina Stanton Babcock
  • Cinny put up an indifferent hand to her fair hair, one of the cushions fell overboard, also a ukulele.

    Under the Law Edwina Stanton Babcock
  • The musical instruments in use to-day are the guitar, the mandolin, and the ukulele.

  • Bernice saw that Warren's eyes had left a ukulele he had been tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.

    Flappers and Philosophers F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Somebody began to play a ukulele, and gay voices took up the tune.

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 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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