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In the 19th century, a former British army officer named Edward Purvis lived in Hawaii as an official at the royal court. Purvis is said to have been given the Hawaiian nickname of 'ukulele, which means "jumping flea," because he was small and lively. In 1879 Portuguese immigrants arrived in the Hawaiian Islands. They brought several of their native instruments, among them a small four-stringed guitar. Purvis liked this new instrument. He quickly learned to play it. In time the small guitars became a general favorite, and it took the nickname of the man who had made it popular.

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