Connotation and Denotation

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!


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: December 15, 2021