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[noh-buh l] /ˈnoʊ bəl/
adjective, nobler, noblest.
distinguished by rank or title.
pertaining to persons so distinguished.
of, belonging to, or constituting a hereditary class that has special social or political status in a country or state; of or pertaining to the aristocracy.
of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence:
a noble thought.
Antonyms: ignoble, base; vulgar, common.
admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition:
a noble poem.
Synonyms: grand, dignified, august.
very impressive or imposing in appearance:
a noble monument.
of an admirably high quality; notably superior; excellent.
famous; illustrious; renowned.
Chemistry. inert; chemically inactive.
Falconry. (of a hawk) having excellent qualities or abilities.
a person of noble birth or rank; nobleman or noblewoman.
Antonyms: commoner, serf, peasant.
a former gold coin of England, first issued in 1346 by Edward III, equal to half a mark or 6s. 8d., replaced in 1464 under Edward IV by the rose noble.
(in Britain) a peer.
Origin of noble
1175-1225; Middle English < Old French < Latin (g)nōbilis ‘notable, of high rank’, equivalent to (g)nō-, base of (g)nōscere ‘to get to know, find out’ (see know1) + -bilis -ble
Related forms
nobleness, noun
nonnoble, adjective
overnoble, adjective
overnobleness, noun
overnobly, adverb
pseudonoble, adjective
Can be confused
Nobel, noble.
Synonym Study
4. Noble, high-minded, magnanimous agree in referring to lofty principles and loftiness of mind or spirit. Noble implies a loftiness of character or spirit that scorns the petty, mean, base, or dishonorable: a noble deed. High-minded implies having elevated principles and consistently adhering to them: a high-minded pursuit of legal reforms. Magnanimous suggests greatness of mind or soul, especially as manifested in generosity or in overlooking injuries: magnanimous toward his former enemies. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for nobles
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When the Kings were weak the nobles often managed to get hold of the State.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • He took oath of all the princes and nobles, who swore to be loyal to their new master.

    Welsh Fairy Tales William Elliott Griffis
  • Let us arouse the people; hitherto we have depended too much upon the nobles.

    Leila, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Knights and nobles lie clad in armour with their ladies by their sides.

    English Villages P. H. Ditchfield
  • Another party of nobles and sailors went to search this country.

    Classic Myths Mary Catherine Judd
  • They have two languages, that of the nobles and that of the people, and both are very copious.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • The nobles form a class by themselves, indulging in all sorts of vices.'

    Homeward Bound James Fenimore Cooper
  • Do you think that the nobles and the people will enjoy being fooled as you've fooled them?

    The Prisoner of Zenda Anthony Hope
  • For there they bear higher sway than the free-born, nay, higher than the nobles.

British Dictionary definitions for nobles


of or relating to a hereditary class with special social or political status, often derived from a feudal period
of or characterized by high moral qualities; magnanimous: a noble deed
having dignity or eminence; illustrious
grand or imposing; magnificent: a noble avenue of trees
of superior quality or kind; excellent: a noble strain of horses
  1. (of certain elements) chemically unreactive
  2. (of certain metals, esp copper, silver, and gold) resisting oxidation
  1. designating long-winged falcons that capture their quarry by stooping on it from above Compare ignoble
  2. designating the type of quarry appropriate to a particular species of falcon
a person belonging to a privileged social or political class whose status is usually indicated by a title conferred by sovereign authority or descent
(in the British Isles) a person holding the title of duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron, or a feminine equivalent
a former Brit gold coin having the value of one third of a pound
Derived Forms
nobleness, noun
nobly, adverb
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin nōbilis, originally, capable of being known, hence well-known, noble, from noscere to know
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nobles



"man of rank," c.1300, from noble (adj.). The same noun sense also is in Old French and Latin. Late 14c. as the name of an English coin first issued in reign of Edward III.



c.1200, "illustrious, distinguished; worthy of honor or respect," from Old French noble "of noble bearing or birth," from Latin nobilis "well-known, famous, renowned; excellent, superior, splendid; high-born, of superior birth," earlier *gnobilis, literally "knowable," from gnoscere "to come to know," from PIE root *gno- "to know" (see know). The prominent Roman families, which were "well known," provided most of the Republic's public officials.

Meaning "distinguished by rank, title, or birth" is first recorded late 13c. Sense of "having lofty character, having high moral qualities" is from c.1600. A noble gas (1902) is so called for its inactivity or intertness; a use of the word that had been applied in Middle English to precious stones, metals, etc., of similar quality (late 14c.), from the sense of "having admirable properties" (c.1300).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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