or u·ke·le·le

[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. ukiyo-e,
  2. ukr.,
  3. ukraina,
  4. ukraine,
  5. ukrainian,
  6. ul,
  7. ulama,
  8. ulan,
  9. ulan bator,
  10. ulan ude

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

British Dictionary definitions for ukulele



/ (ˌjuːkəˈleɪlɪ) /


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

Culture definitions for 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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.