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Noreen is a diminutive of Nora. Nora is most likely a diminutive of Honora, ultimately derived from Latin and meaning "honor". Some sources suggest it can also be a short form of Eleanor, which means "mercy, compassion". There is also a similar name in Arabic, which means "light". Nora is the name of the main character in Ibsen's novel A Doll's House, as well as the name of a 2000 film about Nora Barnacle, the wife of James Joyce.

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