noun uku·le·le \ˌyü-kə-ˈlā-lē, ˌü-\

: a musical instrument that is like a small guitar with four strings

Full Definition of UKULELE

:  a small guitar of Portuguese origin popularized in Hawaii in the 1880s and strung typically with four strings

Variants of UKULELE

uku·le·le also uke·le·le \ˌyü-kə-ˈlā-lē, ˌü-\

Illustration of UKULELE

Origin of UKULELE

Hawaiian ʽukulele, from ʽuku flea + lele jumping
First Known Use: 1896

Rhymes with UKULELE

UKELELE Defined for Kids


noun uku·le·le \ˌyü-kə-ˈlā-lē\

Definition of UKULELE for Kids

:  a musical instrument like a small guitar with four strings

Word History of UKULELE

In the Hawaiian language ʽukulele means literally jumping flea, a creature with little resemblance to a small guitar. It is likely that this peculiar name became attached to the instrument in a roundabout way. Edward Purvis, a former British army officer living at the court of the Hawaiian king, is said to have been given the nickname ʽukulele because he was a small, lively man. In 1879 Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii brought with them a small four-stringed guitar called a machete. Purvis was taken with the instrument and soon learned to play it. When the machete became a Hawaiian favorite, it took on Purvis's nickname, ʽukulele, and its Portuguese name was soon forgotten.


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