or u·ke·le·le

[yoo-kuh-ley-lee; Hawaiian. oo-koo-ley-ley]


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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ukulele

Contemporary Examples of ukulele

Historical Examples of ukulele

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for ukulele




a small four-stringed guitar, esp of Hawaii

Word Origin for ukulele

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

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

ukulele in Culture



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

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