What Is Denotation? (with Examples)

What Is Denotation? (with Examples)

Denotation is the literal meaning of a word. (You can think of denotation as the dictionary definition of a word.)

Denotation contrasts with connotation, which refers to the feelings or ideas suggested by a word.

So, the literal meaning of a word is the word's denotation, and the non-literal meaning of a word (e.g., based on an implication or a shared emotional association) is the word's connotation.

Examples of Denotation and Connotation for the Same Word

Here are some examples of denotation and connotation associated with the same word:

WordDenotationConnotation
FoxRed small wild dogAttractive lady
GreasyCovered in greaseCreepy
SnakeLong legless reptileUntrustworthy person

Positive and Negative Connotations of Words with Similar Denotations

Here are some examples of words with a similar denotation but very different connotations:

Word with a Positive Connotation Word with a Negative Connotation Approximate Denotation of Both
SlenderSkinnyThin
AssertiveDomineeringForceful
MeticulousNitpickingThorough
EconomicalTight fistedCost-effective
YouthfulChildishYoung
TenaciousStubbornPersistent
UnassumingPlainNormal

See Also

What is connotation? What does literal meaning mean? What is figurative language? What are metaphors? What are metonyms? What are similes? What are idioms? Glossary of grammatical terms