Connotation and Denotation

Connotation and Denotation Video

Have you ever used a word intending one meaning and someone else took it a completely different way?

Welcome to this Mometrix lesson on denotation and connotation.

Denotation Definition

Denotation is the literal meaning of a word. In other words, it is the objective meaning of a word, or the meaning most widely agreed upon by scholars that is not based on personal experience.

Connotation Definition

Connotation is the literal meaning of a word along with the emotions associated with the word. Connotation is the subjective meaning of a word, or relative to an individual’s experience.

Denotation Example

Let’s take the word shady. Shady, by its denotation, is a word used to describe the amount of sun a tree blocks out with its leaves. In this context, shady is a neutral word that doesn’t really evoke any sort of emotion. In a different context, looking at connotation, Jim might call Tina shady. Here, the word possesses a negative connotation that implies slyness or sneakiness.

Connotation Example

Another word we can look at is unique. Unique means for something or someone to be original, to stand out from the norm, or one of a kind. In this case, unique would have an arguably positive connotation; most people like to stand out, and that’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, unique could be used in an insulting manner, making fun of someone and implying that they are weird or strange.

Connotation vs. Denotation

Now, let’s look at the words childish and childlike. Both of these words have similar denotations relating to the behaviors of a child; however, both words carry entirely different connotations. When the word childish is said and is directed to another person, oftentimes it is being used as an insult to that person to make a statement on their maturity level. To call someone or something childlike, implies this sort of whimsical quality to their actions. This, in turn, gives the word childlike a more positive connotation than the word childish.

Understanding the connotations and denotations of words can be very helpful when crafting meaningful sentences. If you write oblivious to widely accepted connotations, you will be miscommunicating ideas to your audience; they will comprehend your writing one way while you are intending it a completely different way.

I hope you found this video helpful! Until next time!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is connotation?


Connotation is the idea or feeling that a word invokes by adding to the literal meaning of the actual word itself. In other words, if a word has a “good” connotation, it is a word that invokes a positive feeling or idea; if a word has a “bad” connotation, it is a word that invokes a negative feeling or idea. The context of the surrounding text can help clarify the connotation of a particular word or phrase.

Good connotation:“Oscar uses coupons at the grocery store because he is economical.”
Bad connotation:“Oscar uses coupons at the grocery store because he is cheap.”


What is denotation?


Denotations are the most literal meaning of a word or feeling; it is essentially the definition you would find in a dictionary.


What is the difference between connotation and denotation?


Connotation is an indirect expression representing an implied feeling or meaning of a word, while denotation is the most literal meaning of any given word. For example, the denotation of the word timid is “lacking in courage or self confidence.” The connotation of timid is generally a negative one, particularly if you compare it to the word reserved or the word apprehensive, which have a more positive connotation.


What is a negative connotation?


Negative connotations are bad feelings or emotions that affect people when they hear certain words or phrases. Negative connotations can drastically affect or change the meaning of the text.

For example, when comparing the words elderly and mature, the word with a negative connotation would be elderly. While mature invokes the idea of dignity and wisdom, elderly invokes the idea of an older and perhaps weaker person.


What is a positive connotation?


Positive connotations are words that create happy feelings and moods within a text, contrasting the negative connotations that cause negative feelings.

For example, when comparing the words curious and nosy, the word with a positive connotation would be curious. While nosy invokes the idea of someone prying into other people’s business, curious invokes the idea of someone desiring to learn about something new.


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: January 6, 2023