Als Erfinder der Ukulele galt lange Zeit Manuel Nunes, einer der ersten Ukulelenbauer. Doch sein Beitrag zu ihrer Entstehung ist zweifelhaft.
Tranquada, Jim; King, John: „The Singular Case of Manuel Nunes and the Invention of the Bouncing Flea“. In: The Galpin Society Journal 2007:4 Bd. 60. , S. 85–95; hier S. 89
Dan Scanlan: The World According to Uke. Ukulele History As Told To Dan Scanlan. O.O. 2013 (ISBN 9780962628054) S. 9
|Vihuela||6 x 22)||Renaissance|
|Guitarra||Vihuela||4 x 23)||Renaissance|
|Barockgitarre||Guitarra||5 x 24)||Spanische Gitarre||Barock||e'hgd'a5)|
|Rajão||Gitarre||5||Taro patch||19. Jh.||d'g'c'e'a'6)|
|Ukulele||Rajão, Braguinha||4||19. Jh.||gcea7) / adf#h8)|
Die Gitarre ist ein „multikulturelles“ Instrument, und ihr Weg hin zur Ukulele ist entsprechend verworren. Entscheidend war, daß Anfang des 18. Jhs. die höfische Kultur des Hauses Hannover nach England vordrang (als man dort den englischen Thron übernahm) und dabei auch eine Form von Gitarre (guittar) mitbrachte, die später als englische Gitarre bekannt wurde.9) Sie hatte anders als die Barockgitarre Stahlsaiten und war sehr einfach gestimmt (c–e–gg–c'c'–e'e'–g'g'), weshalb sie häufig in Terzparallelen gespielt wurde (und der tiefste Ton, wie bei der Ukulele, das C ist). Britische Kaufleute brachten die englische Gitarre (u.a. durch den Gebrauch des Kapo gekennzeichnet) nach Portugal und auch aufs portugiesische Madeira.10) Von dort aus gingen die madeirischen Gitarren-Ableger dann Mitte des 19. mit den portugiesischen Emigranten nach Südamerika und Hawaii, wo schließlich die Ukulele entstand.
Uku-lele (ú-ku-lé-le)–a flea; a sort of guitar introduced by the Portuguese.
Emerson, Nathaniel Bright: Unwritten Literature of Hawaii. The Sacred Songs of the Hula Washington 1909, Glossary
The boys in a certain district school on Hawaii call the weekly head inspection „playing the ukulele“ in allusion to the literal interpretation of the name for the native banjo.
In 1879 Mrs. Emerson, then a young woman, came from Europe to pay a visit to some English friends named Purvis, then living in Hawaii, or the Sandwich Islands. … At the time of Mrs. Emerson's arrival in 1879, the Portuguese were just beginning to come to the islands in fair numbers, and had brought with them three stringed musical instruments, of which the smallest was the model for the now famous ukulele. Those were the days of King Kalakaua, that jovial monarch who gathered around him all the wit and charm in his kingdom. The young army officer, Edward W. Purvis, aside from a natural charm of manner and much social experience, was a gifted musician with a genuine curiosity about, and love of, customs of the folk among whom he found himself. Not only was he a favourite at the king's court, but he became his chamberlain, and was much loved by the Hawaiians. Almost at once he manifested an interest in the quaint little stringed instrument which the Portuguese had, and which, probably because it was small, easily handled, and relatively inexpensive, was becoming popular with all classes. He soon became adept with it, and was always in demand among the Hawaiians to add his music to their fun. In fact, so devoted did he become to his little “guitar” that he was seldom seen without it under his arm.
He was slight and agile, in which respect he offered rather a contrast to the tall, heavy, slow-moving Hawaiians with whom he was so often in company. Humorously and affectionately they nick-named him uku-lele, literally „jumping flea,“ a name which stayed with him until his death and which, readily enough, became associated with his beloved little instrument in the minds of all his friends, and has perpetuated his memory.
Helen H. Roberts: "How the Hawaiian Instrument, the Ukulele, Received its Name." In: Journal of the Polynesian Society 40:159 (1931), S. 175–176
Apparently fleas were introduced from European or American ships sometime before 1809, during the reign of Kamehameha I. 
Examination of the word 'uku and its combinations leads us to the conclusion that the word for flea, 'uku-lele, is of post-contact origin. (…) The word 'uku-lele, after it was fixed for reference to household fleas, was adopted as the name of the small 4-string guitar that became a popular musical instrument soon after arrival of Portuguese contract laborers in 1878. The usually accepted version of this adoption, as stated by Webster's dictionaries, is that the rapid movements of the fingers in playing the instrument resemble the leaping of fleas. However, Pukui and Elbert suggest the interesting alternative probability that the ukulele was named for Edward „'Uku-lele“ Purvis, a small, nimble entertainer who was greatly responsible for popularizing this instrument in Hawaii. 
Haas, Glenn E.; Tomich, P. Quentin; Wilson, Nixon: „The Flea in Early Hawaii“. In: The Hawaiian Journal of History 1971 Bd. 5., S. 59–74
|Die japanische Abbildung von 1937 zeigt v.l.n.r. „Original-Ukulele“, Ukulele in Ananasform und Banjo-Ukulele|