A stereotyped laugh used by women from aristocratic Japanese or pseudo-Japanese families, usually written "ホホホ" or "ほほほ" (ho ho ho), or sometimes "お~~ほほほ" (o~hohoho) representing a high-pitched, somewhat artificial form of refined feminine laughter (rather than the belly-laugh "ho ho ho" represents in English). Typically associated with The Ojou character type, or haughty, stuck-up women.
These characters are most likely to exhibit this laugh in moments of arrogance or when contemplating how they'll humiliate their enemies. They frequently will pose holding a straightened palm vertically to the side of or below their mouth, or holding a fan over their mouths. This comes from the custom that refined Japanese women don't expose their mouths while laughing.
No matter what, the Noblewoman's Laugh is almost always the mark of a bitch.
Male villains may also laugh this way, particularly if they're similarly prim or aristocratic or if they're effeminate (so expect to hear it from the Wicked Cultured man or the Sissy Villain).
Compare Evil Laugh, Laughing Mad, and Annoying Laugh.
Happens on occasion in Lone Wolf and Cub. Owing to the nature of the subject matter, many of the laughing noblewomen in question are scheming, heartless women whose ultimate fate is often preceded by "ASSASSIN, Lone Wolf and Cub! I TAKE YOUR LIFE!"
Lady Snowblood from the same author has Oyuki laugh this way once. Just once.
Naga from SlayersOVAs and movies is likely the most powerful example of this, perhaps because of the sheer volume of it; her Noblewoman's Laugh has been known to scare small animals and old ladies. When she was cloned, the simultaneous laughter of a dozen Nagas was all it took to destroy the villain of the piece.
Naga's laugh is apparently so destructive that it's used as her ultimate attack in the Magical Battle Arena doujin game. That's right, it's on the same level as Dragon Slave and Starlight Breaker.
Not only that, when all characters are charging their stamina in the game (a bar of energy that is used whenever a character dashes or double dashes), the character is seen focusing on their inner strength for the bar to fill up. Naga laughs. Yep, not only is a Brown Note, but it is also able to recover her enegy!
In one of the final episodes of Slayers Try (the Japanese version), Lina does her Noblewoman's Laugh, to which Amelia says, "Miss Lina, I don't like that kind of laugh!" This is one of the hints which suggests that Amelia and Naga are sisters.
This is also used as one of the clues as to Nama's (unrevealed) identity in Evolution-R.
Suiseiseki, The Ojou in Rozen Maiden, does a "hee hee hee" version of this while playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White, and after the apple is bitten, breaks into the full "OH-ho-ho-ho!"
Katherine McDowell of Kaze no Stigma does this, along with just about every other noblewoman cliche.
Eva from Monster does this, to the point where strong men of all moral and character alignments flinch at the sound.
The Triplets of Touka Gettan do this, especially when exiting. There's nothing quite like hearing three noblewomen's laughs at the same time.
Green Esmeraude (Shown above) from Sailor Moon does this a lot. Lampshaded on one occasion in which her evil "co-worker" Saphir tells her she's being too loud. Lampshading it is practically a Running Gag!
Zoisite in the DiC American dub (but not the original) also definitely qualifies for this, they do have the same voice actress, after all.
Jessie of the Pokémon anime, usually when getting away with a theft. Oddly enough, however, James is the wealthy one, not Jessie.
Yes, his wealth is the reason why it's strange that James doesn't laugh like this.
A one-shot opponent of Ash's in the Pokémon League tournament - Jeanette Fisher, a girl rich enough to have an entire cheer section also had this laugh while thrashing Ash with a Bellsprout.
Blue exhibits one whenever Green makes his "noisy woman" comment.
Bizarrely enough, Mamori Anezaki of Eyeshield 21 does this during the field day mini-arc—although, she was deliberately acting as deviant as possible in order to facilitate one of Hiruma's notorious plots.
Yukimitsu also dreads the day his mother lets one of these loose.
In an early episode of Eureka Seven, after she overhears Renton self-narrating an embarrassing admission of his feelings for Eureka, Talho walks around the Gekko-go doing a Noblewoman's Laugh as he follows her pleading with her not to tell anyone. Unbeknownst to Renton, everyone's already aware of his crush on Eureka, so Talho's just screwing with him, making this a particularly effective example.
Karna from Niea7 indulges in this from time to time.
Frieza from Dragon Ball Z has a laugh that fits (in both the original Japanese and the English dub) which, when combined with his general politeness and his tendency to use feminine pronouns in Japanese, is meant to make "him" sound disturbingly like an actual noblewoman.
Bleach. The unnamed female arrancar that controls Aizen's hollow fortress in anime episodes 213 and 214 has such a laugh. She displays it at the end of episode 213.
In Mayoi Neko Overrun, Chise does this from time to time. In one hilarious instance, she does it at school after she reveals that she helped Nozomi get into the school, only to have Ieyasu shut the door in her face while she does the laugh.
Heartcatch Precure: The drama club is doing a play where an extra is playing The Ojou and tries this laugh but gets yelled at that its not grand enough.
Ryoko Mendou from Urusei Yatsura does this, albeit a less annoying version of it.
The Iron Queen from Sonic The Hedgehog. Even though it's in print, her laugh is still grating.
Rare wholesome example: In The Wizard of Oz, Glinda, the Witch of the North, has this line when confronting the Wicked Witch of the West: "Ohoho, rubbish! You have no power here. Begone! Before someone drops a house on you too!"
A rare example in print: Aurora, the Summer Princess, in "Summer Knight", book four of The Dresden Files. During the climactic battle scene, she utilizes what can only be a Noblewoman's Laugh to literally drive her enemies to their knees.
Bellatrix from Harry Potter does this sometimes, though most of the time, she doesn't bother with dapperness and just goes straight into Laughing Mad. She actually is wizarding aristocracy, though.
A running gag in Jeeves and Wooster is Honoria Glossop's scarily loud laugh, which gets described in various creative ways every time it's mentioned ("a squadron of cavalry charging across a tin bridge", "waves breaking on a stern and rock-bound coast", etc.).
Live Action TV
In Kamen Rider Kiva, Shizuka briefly goes through a Yandere period, marked by pseudo-Imagine Spots where she has devil horns, a pitchfork, and does the laugh as she attempts to break up Wataru and Mio.
It gets weirder (and funnier) later on when she realizes that Mio does honestly love Wataru and tries to patch them up. Afterwards she muses that maybe her true role is to be Wataru's surrogate mother, followed by an Imagine Spot of her as an angel...still doing the laugh.
One of the only voice clips used in SaGa Frontier, which appears after what can only be accurately termed the "Evil Lesbian Vampire Queen" ending of Asellus's quest, is a rather chilling Noblewoman's Laugh. In her final boss battle, Orlouge's princesses laugh similarly.
Eva has a fan, but she tends to sneer more than laugh.
In the Japanese version of Princess Debut, when introduced to Kid (Vince in the English version), this is the "proper" response choice when asked if you're the princess.
MSF High, being that is embraces Anime Tropes, has a character, Althea, who not only has this as a laugh, but has bequeathed said laugh to her 'daughter' Ilushia/Queen Ichigo. Furthermore, Althea's weapon of choice is a whip.
She laughs just fine when she's mocking Zuko however.
Eska from Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra does this with her brother Desna when she tells a bad joke and explains how she thinks it's funny. And when they laugh, they sound like vultures...and Eska makes Bolin laugh with them, which he does only halfheartedly.
As voiced by Mr. Ryusei Nakao in the original dub of Dragon Ball Z, merciless despot Freeza exhibits a formidable Noblewoman's Laugh.
General Blue in the Japanese dub for Dragonball also exhibits this. Bonus points if anyone can guess his sexual preference.
The titular character of the Japanese series Kaiba (not yet available outside of Japan or torrents) has a rather high-pitched voice to begin with. In the eighth episode, :the evil clone of Kaiba demonstrates a classic Noble Woman's Laugh.
Another Shugo Chara! example is Tadase whenever he chara-changes into his "tyrannical ruler" character, although it's a slightly more crazed version of it.
Gyro Zeppelli of Steel Ball Run has a variant version: "Nyo-ho-ho".
In the Japanese incarnations of the Sonic the Hedgehog shows and games (especially the more recent of each), the Mad ScientistBig Bad Dr. Eggman gained a laugh rather like a Noblewoman's Laugh consisting of a long "OH" followed by a varying number of "HO"'s to increase comedic value. It is one of Eggman's most memorable traits in Japan but almost never heard in American dubbing.
He finally says it in English if you play Sonic Rush. Get hit during a boss fight, and Robotnik will whoop it out. It's also occasionally heard during gameplay in Sonic Adventure 2.
Zexion, of all the Organization XIII members, lets out a impressive Noblewoman's Laugh during the battles against Riku in Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and Sora in Final Mix+. It can be heard here..
Also, Vexen seemed to have a really annoying one in the English version of the Chain of Memories GBA game.
Also, Vanitas does it in both the English and Japanese versions of Birth by Sleep.