A Quick Guide to Understanding Laotian Names


Contrary to popular online usage and recognition, I did not (legally) bestow upon my child the first name of ‘little testicles.’ My first-born is known by Humnoy and I would like to clarify that it is his Laotian nickname and not his official first name. I decided long ago that this blog would keep my family’s anonymity so it goes to say that Theek, Humnoy, and Gym Hottie are not our actual names on paper.

You see, in Laotian culture, oftentimes babies are given nicknames well before a name is decided. And you will also see that they are not the most flattering or serious of nicknames. ‘Hum’ means “testicles” and ‘noy/noi’ means “small/little” then you figure out the rest. Legend has it that this tradition of giving babies far-from-endearing nicknames was started to ward off spirits that may want to steal the child because of beautiful names (i.e., their first name). If they’re nicknamed ‘Thooey’ (“Fatty”) or ‘Dahm’ (“Dark”), then ain’t no scary monster-ghost gonna come get your “fat” or “dark,” new baby.

My children (and I) have beautiful Laotian first names and, of course, embarrassing Laotian nicknames. Continuing with the theme of shamelessly anonymously blogging here at the Laotian Commotion, my brand new Bébé Girl will be known as none other as La Noi Noy. ‘La’ is a variation of the term for “girl” and you should remember from our first lesson what ‘noi/noy’ means.

Disclaimer: I clearly see now that my first-born got the short end of the stick on the whole nickname gig. Hope his sister doesn’t get taken to the Dark Side since hers is not as amusing.lanoi intro

So, recapping: what does Lanoi Lanoy mean?

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35 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to Understanding Laotian Names

  1. La Noi is gorgeous like her Momma! I really enjoyed the language lesson. I teach ESL, and I have worked with Thai students who also go by nicknames. I never thought to ask what those names mean. I think nicknames are endearing, no matter how funny they are!

  2. Love her nickname 🙂 bet her 1st name is beautiful just like she is BUT she will for ever be in my mind known as little ovaries 😉

    I really do respect the cultural naming process. It took many months, dreams, translations from inlaws (few arguments) to come up with our bebe’s Hawaiian name Makanaokaola. It was worth it because he truly is our Gift of life 🙂

  3. I love naming traditions (and keeping anonymity on blogs, still working on a name for my hubby and brother). And I love it even more when people from thee cultures take time to continue the traditions while here in the states. Welcome La Noi!!

  4. OOOH THEEK!! She is absolutely darling. Ok Please say this is it, I don’t want to have another one.. But everytime I see her.. YOU ARE MAKING ME WANT TO! Bad influence!!! lol

  5. She is gorgeous, hope you don’t mind me not complimenting like most Lao where we are supposed to say that the baby is ugly to ward off evil spirit. I’m from the Southern Lao and we would call a baby girl Elarh or Elarh Noy.

  6. Perhaps, I am little late on this conversation… La in Lao means “last”, for example: “louk la” means last child. La Noy would mean last little child :-).. Hope this helps.. It is been so long since I lasted visited your blog, back when you only had Humnoy..hahahha

      • i know this is years later… but you may have already figured it out… but ‘la’ is also used as an endearment when calling for a small child as a grown up. like if you forget the kid’s name, or calling someone’s else’s child that is there. like: “la, can you go get your dad” sort of thing. ^^” i also hope that helps with the wording since Lao and other foreign languages has so many words for several things, but also have to take in account of the tonal usage too. ^^’

  7. Funny you’d mention Thooey. My Thai mother gave me that lovely name some years ago. And as Thai and Laotian are pretty similar, I’m sure you know they mean the same thing. :/

  8. I love this post! I was laughing so hard because my cousin’s Lao name is “humnoy”. Well I’m half Lao and half Cambodian, and my name is “Nune” (or Nouny or Nunie) [each family member spells it differently lol]. What does it exactly mean though? My dad who is Lao really spoke to me in a mix of English and Lao and never explained much of my name except that I got it from my uncle.

  9. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been using? I’m experiencing some small security problems
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  10. This is so funny I was just telling my (Lao) bf about ur blog and home birth (since he thinks my want for a home birth is so odd) and your beautiful babies humnoy and lanoy and he giggles and goes her son is named “little balls” and told me that’s what they call his older brother Hum as a nickname I’m curious now as to see what nickname our little Lao/white baby girl (due in 5 weeks) will end up with

  11. I’m fully Laos and my bf is African American and we both decided we wanted our baby girl to have a Laotian name can you help me out? She will be the youngest of 4 siblings which are all boys lol. Any suggestion is greatly appreciated

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