Definition of ukulele
: a small guitar of Portuguese origin popularized in Hawaii in the 1880s and strung typically with four strings
Recent Examples of ukulele from the Web
And music lovers of all skill levels will gather in dozens of cities for single-instrument jam sessions for everything from accordions, cellos and dulcimers to harmonica, ukuleles, violins and voices.
Ukuleles are experiencing a resurgence of pop culture popularity.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ukulele'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of ukulele
Hawaiian ʽukulele, from ʽuku flea + lele jumping
First Known Use: 1896See Words from the same year
UKULELE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of ukulele for English Language Learners
: a musical instrument that is like a small guitar with four strings
UKULELE Defined for Kids
Definition of ukulele for Students
: a musical instrument like a small guitar with four strings
History for 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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