Recent scientific developments have radically changed the way we look at the vast ‘non-coding’ part of our genome. It is now clear that this genomic ‘dark matter’ is transcribed into myriads of RNA species that act behind the scenes to veto, or boost, the production of proteins in our cells. As a consequence, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) represent an additional layer of regulation for fundamental biological processes such as organ development, tissue repair and immunity. It also follows that disturbances in ncRNA networks (among which microRNAs and long ncRNAs are the best studied) can give rise to a whole range of pathological conditions. Increasing preclinical and translational evidence places ncRNAs as key players in a wide spectrum of diseases affecting the lung. In this concise review, we will provide essential concepts of ncRNA science, with special emphasis on discoveries relevant to the pulmonary physician.