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ukelele [ukulele](from Hawaiian ‘leaping flea’). Small 4-str. instr. like a guitar, of Portuguese orig. and introduced by the Portuguese to Sandwich Island c.1877. Patented in Hawaii 1917, where it became very common, its popularity spreading to USA and Europe. Easy to learn, with special notation. Played by strumming with fingers. Eng. popularity much aided by its assoc. with the Lancashire comedian George Formby (1905–61).