The ukulele from Hawaii, sometimes abbreviated to uke, is a member of the lute family of instruments; it generally employs four nylon or gut strings. The ukulele is commonly associated with music from Hawaii where the name roughly translates as "jumping flea", perhaps because of the movement of the player's fingers.
Legend attributes it to the nickname of the Englishman Edward William Purvis, one of King Kalākaua's officers, because of his small size, fidgety manner, and playing expertise. According to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, the name means "the gift that came here", from the Hawaiian words uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).
George Formby was perhaps the UK's most famous ukulele player, although he frequently played a banjolele, which consisted of an extended ukulele neck with a banjo resonator body. The popularity of the ukulele during the first half of the 20th century was most likely because of its relative simplicity and portability.
Another famous British artist was Tessie O'Shea, who appeared in numerous movies and stage shows, and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, on the night The Beatles debuted in 1964 although not primarily known for his ability on the ukelele, Peter Sellers, in 1974, performed a brilliant rendition of "When I'm Cleaning Windows" on a Michael Parkinson show.
The more common types of ukuleles include soprano (standard ukulele), concert, tenor, and baritone. Less common are the sopranino (also called piccolo, bambino, or "pocket uke"), bass, and contrabass ukuleles.