Noona – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a pet name for your big sister? You could take a cue from the east and call her “Noona.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The term “Noona” is an east Asian expression referring to a girl. The term is a popular name in Thailand and South Korea, meaning “Gift of God.” However, the name also applies to your big sister. The phrase is not suitable for describing every girl you meet or your girlfriend. It also doesn’t apply to your little sister.

It’s a respectful term to older women like your big sister or a female cousin or family member more senior than you. Asian cultures have a deep respect for their elders, and the word “Noona” is a show of respect to them, showing them that you appreciate their authority over you and their role in your life.

Men and women can use the saying, but it only applies to the female gender, not to men. If you call someone your “Noona,” it means that you hold them in high esteem and respect them.

Example Usage

“Kelly is my Noona, and I love her so much. She just got married to the guy of her dreams, and they are having their first child together in a few months.”

“I just heard some guy call a girl his Noona, and he kissed her right on the lips. I’m talking tongue. I hope that’s not his sister.”

“Kim is my Noona. She was born three years before me, and my brother came three years after me.”

“So, you’re calling that girl your Noona. Is she your sister? You guys don’t look anything alike. Do you think it’s okay if I ask her out?”

“My older sister is coming to town this weekend. It’s been years since I[‘ve seen my Noona. I can’t wait to catch up with her.”

“You’re Noona is on the phone looking for you. I think you better take the call. It sounds like you’re in a lot of trouble with the family.”

“No, that person isn’t your Noona. She’s your girlfriend. For heaven’s sake, stop calling her that, or people will think you’re dating your sister.”

“Tyra is my Noona, she’s the big sister I never had and I feel like she is my blood relative, even though there’s no relation.”


The origin of the name "Noona" comes from Southeast Asia. Countries like Thailand and South Korea use the name for girls. Noona translates to "Gift of God" in the Thai language.

The first recorded use of the name in the United States by the Social Security Administration occurred on Thursday, June 2nd, 1881.

However, the word spread throughout Southeast Asia in the 1900s, and by the end of the century, people in Southeast Asia would use it to describe their big sister.

Phrases Similar to Noona

  • Sister.
  • Sis.

Phrases Opposite to Noona

  • Brother.
  • Bro.
  • Girlfriend.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Noona.

Ways People May Say Noona Incorrectly

Some people think that the word "Noona" means "girlfriend." However, that isn't the case, and calling your girlfriend your Noona would suggest that you are in an incestuous relationship with your sister.

Calling your girlfriend your Noona and then kissing her in public would likely get you strange stares from people in east Asian countries. Using the name to describe your nanny or a child-minder would be incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Noona

You can use "Noona" to describe your sister or close female family relation. The phrase suits use with people close to you, and it serves as somewhat of a pet name in western culture. In the east, Noona is a common name in countries like Thailand.

It's common in many eastern countries, especially around the Asian peninsula. Koreans, Thai, and Vietnamese use the term interchangeably as a girl's name and a description of their sister.

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