The word, connotation, is used in two different ways. Since connotations are cultural associations, some people may have conflicting opinions about the correct connotation of the word.
- Connotation is used to describe whether a word has negative, positive or neutral associations: Thin vs. Skinny vs. Scrawny.
- Connotation is also used to describe a word that has a completely unrelated symbolic meaning: Dark times = Bad times.
Denotation is another word for the literal, dictionary definition of a word. Connotation is the associated meaning of the word beyond the literal definition.
- Connotation 1 (emotional charge): Every word has a negative, positive or neutral connotation or association. In this case, understanding connotation enhances understanding of the implied meaning, tone and purpose beyond a word’s literal definition.
- “Youth” = positive connotation (or association); “Juvenile” = negative connotation; “Adolescent” = neutral connotation.
- “Request” or “Remind” = positive connotation; “Whine” or “Nag” = negative connotation; “Ask” = neutral connotation.
- “Assertive” = positive; “Bossy” = negative; “Dominant” = neutral.
- “Senior” = positive; “Old” = negative; “Elderly” = neutral.
- Connotation 2 (symbolic meaning): Some words have a secondary, figurative or symbolic association or connotation. In this case, the word takes on a completely new meaning completely unrelated to the literal meaning of the word:
- Snake: An evil, devious or immoral person.
- Chicken: A coward.
- Pig: A vulgar person or slob.
- Sweet: Cool, awesome or fun.
- Stepping stone: Used to mean small advancements or achievement en route to achieving a goal.
- Denotation: The literal, dictionary definition of a word.
Every word has a negative, positive or neutral connotation or emotional association. In this case, understanding connotation enhances understanding of the implied meaning, tone, and purpose beyond a word’s literal definition.
- Positive Connotation: Youthful, Assertive, Senior, Remind
- Neutral Connotation: Adolescent, Dominant, Elderly, Ask
- Negative Connotation: Juvenile, Bossy, Old, Whine