: 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.