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Connotations and Denotations


The two terms connotation and denotation, describe the overall implicit and explicit meanings of a word, respectively. They signify the gravity a word or a phrase possesses in the given context.

In short, they highlight and give color to the meaning that words have.

 Both denotation and connotation stem from the Latin word notāre, meaning “to note.”


Connotations are a wide array of positive and negative emotions or associations that most words carry with themselves. Any other meaning associated with the word other than the literal meaning signifies a connotation. Connotations give the word or phrase a secondary meaning. They are often used as something that is suggested or implied by a word or thing. In simple terms, a connotation brings out the hidden meaning of a word. 

For example:

                      The word ‘snake’ brings up a feeling of something similar to facing fear or danger. A person instinctively senses these emotions when hearing the word ‘snake’. 

The connotation of the word ‘snake’ suggests these hidden emotions. They do not give the exact meaning of the word ‘snake’ but the inner meaning.


Similarly, the word ‘beautiful’ can mean different things. It can signify something other than the known meaning of something looking nice and wonderful. The connotation in this case can mean that a poem has been written with a lot of expressions. It can suggest that a piece of art has been made with a lot of skill and so on.

Significance of connotations

Connotations are used in poems that signify the various aspects of nature. They are also used as strong morals on which stories are written. People use connotations in advertisements and on the news as well.

connotation and denotation

The word connotation comes from the Latin term ‘con’ which means “together; with,”. It makes us understand that the connotation of a word works with or alongside its more explicit meaning or denotation.

Types of connotations

There are three types of connotations:

  • Positive,
  • Negative 
  • Neutral.

These three types are necessary to understand the meaning that connotations have in a language.

Neutral connotations- These types of connotations are used to suggest or state facts that do not hold a negative nor a positive emotion in general. For example:

                         The word  ‘old’ is used to suggest that something is aged. It doesn’t hold any positive or negative elements within it.

Positive connotations- As the name suggests, these types of connotations hold a positive remark. For example:

Two positive connotations of the word ‘old’ are ‘vintage’ and ‘matured’ like ‘vintage records’ or ‘matured cheese’.

Words like ‘childlike’ and ‘brilliant’ highlight the positive personalities in a person.

Negative connotations-In the same way as positive connotations, negative connotations suggest a negative remark or trait.For example:

Words like ‘childish’ and ‘nerdy’ give a negative impact. They highlight the negative personalities.

In this way, connotations are used to improve the quality of language used and change the words’ impact and meaning.  


The denotation of a word or a phrase gives its straightforward meaning. It highlights the direct dictionary meaning of the word. A denotation gives the exact definition of the word or phrase. A connotation is used based on the direct meaning of the word. Thus, a connotation is used along with a denotation to give the word its meaning.


For example: ‘I like watching movies.’ This sentence means that the person likes watching movies.

Some more examples are: 

  •  Let us go to play.
  • We are preparing for a meeting.

 These sentences have no inner meanings hidden behind the words. 

connotation and denotation

Denotations do not have different categories like connotations because the words are used only to have a simple dictionary definition and nothing more. Words that have a negative, positive or neutral emotion are used as is without the need for their secondary meaning.

Denotations VS Connotations

If we want to discuss the meaning of a word, it helps to know the difference between denotation and connotation. These two terms are easy to confuse because they describe related concepts.

In a way, denotations and connotations are like two sides of the same coin.

They give a word a variety of meanings. There is a significant difference between the two so they are often confused. For example, the denotation of the word “pale” is having a lighter color or shade. Whereas, its connotation can be understood as inferior or unimpressive. Read the following sentence to understand better-

The walls of our house have a pale color.

We understand that the word pale in the above sentence has been used in its denotative meaning. They suggest that the walls in the house have a light color. On the contrary,

The taste of these cookies is pale in comparison to the ones that are made at home.

This suggests that the taste of the cookies is not as good as the ones made at home. This highlights the connotative meaning of the word pale.

There are many instances where two words have the same denotations but differ in their connotations. For example:

Walk and stroll- Both of these words in a denotative meaning give out the same meaning as that of walking. Their connotations are different though. The meaning of walking doesn’t give us a clear idea of how fast or slow a person is moving. The connotation of “stroll” tells us that the person is leisurely or calmly moving. This also informs us that the person is not in a hurry and walking slowly.

Exercise: Mention the Connotation and Denotation

Mention in the sentences where the word used is a connotation or denotation 

  1. ILL
  • Are you feeling ill?
  • He is an ill-mannered boy.
  1. CHEAP
  • The quality of cars nowadays is very cheap.
  • The items in this store are cheap.
  1. SHOCK
  • He received a shock when he touched the wire without gloves.
  • She was in shock when she found out that he met with an accident.


  1. Sentence 1- denotation

Sentence 2- connotation

Denotation: being sick

Connotation: poorly or badly

  1. Sentence 1- connotation

Sentence 2- denotation

Denotation: little worth

Connotation: low in price

  1. Sentence 1- denotation 

Sentence 2- connotation

Denotation: an electric shockConnotation: sudden upsetting or surprising event

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