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Questions & Answers

What is the difference between the denotation and connotation of a word?

The distinction between the two is extremely interesting!

Denotation is the direct and objective meaning of a word. Mostly, when the ‘meaning’ of a particular word is required, it’s almost always meant to refer to the denotation with regards to that word.

In contrast to this, connotation is meant to refer to the indirect sense within which the word is used. It could be an implicit, subliminal, subterranean or even figurative sort of a meaning that does not come off directly from the direct meaning of the word. 

Following are examples of denotation and connotations of the same words:


Denotation: The name of a color (he was wearing a blue shirt).

Connotation: A sad feeling (she was feeling blue).


Denotation: Part of a shirt (collar) that is of white color (Sam wore a blue shirt with a white collar).

Connotation: Refers to a job that’s purely administrative, non-manual and desk/office work (He feels lucky to be doing a white-collar job otherwise the heat would have made it impossible to work outside of the office).

At times, different words can have the same meaning but different connotations so they can’t be used in the same situation. For instance, ‘proud’ can have a positive connotation as well (e.g. Derrick is proud of his achievements) but ‘arrogant’ would always have a negative connotation (e.g. Sara just stays with her close circle of friends, she’s too arrogant to befriend every common person out there!)

Often at times, the best understanding of words could be reached only through having the knowledge of both denotation and connotation, with regards to them; plus, the denotation on the basis of itself merely might at times come off as too superficial.

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