What Does Connotation Mean? (with Examples)

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What Does Connotation Mean? (with Examples)

Whereas denotation is the literal meaning of a word, connotation is a further understanding of the word's denotation.

Examples of Connotations

Look at these sentences:
  • She's an adult.
  • She's a real woman.
  • She's a real lady.
  • She's a real babe.
These all share a similar denotation (i.e., they denote an adult female), but their connotations (further understandings) are very different.
  • She's an adult.
  • (One possible connotation: a sensible woman)
  • She's a real woman.
  • (One possible connotation: a curvaceous woman)
  • She's a real lady.
  • (One possible connotation: a classy woman)
  • She's a real babe.
  • (One possible connotation: an attractive woman)

Positive and Negative Connotations

A word can have a positive or a negative connotation. For example:

The denotations of the words difficult and challenging are similar. However, their connotations are very different.
  • Difficult (negative connotation)
  • (This suggests there are problems ahead.)
  • Challenging (positive connotation)
  • (This suggests the problems ahead will be overcome.)
Similarly, the denotations of the words nitpicking and meticulous are similar. However, their connotations are very different.
  • Nitpicking (negative connotation)
  • (This suggests someone who gets bogged down on details.)
  • Meticulous (positive connotation)
  • (This suggests someone who doesn't let any mistakes through.)