ukulele (yōkəlāˈlē) [key], Hawaiian musical instrument developed from the Portuguese guitar. It has a fretted fingerboard and four strings that are plucked or strummed. Patented in 1917, the ukulele became popular in the United States in the 1920s. It is also spelled ukelele.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.