The denotation for the word ‘hungry’ is an empty stomach. However, when associated with someone the word has a very misleading connotation of poverty.

Whenever we talk about vocabulary, we’re basically discussing the meaning of a word in two ways – the actual meaning of the word which is universal and remains the same and, the impression of the word which is the emotion that is inspired within the communicators. The literal or universal meaning is called denotation whereas the feel or implied meaning of a word is referred to as the connotation. Let’s look at their meanings in detail.

Denotation vs connotation – definitions, meanings and example sentences

Definition of connotation

Connotation is a noun and it is an emotional response that a word invokes in the readers or hearers. A connotation can be positive or negative like how some words feel ‘exciting and vibrant’ like ‘happy holidays.’ Some words feel grim naturally like the word ‘gothic’. Writers often use connotations to describe their ideas.

Example sentences of connotation

  • Retro fashion holds a very stylish connotation suggesting that fashion is up-to-date but its literal meaning suggests otherwise.

Many clothing is retro or nostalgic, which connotes that it is of latest fashion. Many brands call their clothing retro but it doesn’t imply that the style has been copied from outdated fashion but instead the word retro has a very attractive feel and that’s why many brands use this label often.

  • He intended no negative connotation when he used the word ‘offend’ in his speech. What he really meant was that, as students, we should not offend anyone and be more cooperative.

A boy used the word ‘offend’ in his speech but he didn’t mean anything negative. He wanted everyone to be more accepting of others and avoid offensive remarks.

  • A guest became very angry at the live-telecast because of being called a politician. He said that the word had a very negative connotation and the community thought that all politicians were thieves. He insisted that everyone should call him a statesperson.

This sentence is pretty self-explanatory. A politician was offended on a live program. He wanted to be called a statesperson instead of a politician because the generally accepted opinion about politicians was very negative and many people assumed that all of them were corrupt and notorious.

Definition of denotation

The word denotation is a noun and it is used when you’re trying to tell the literal meaning of something.

Example sentences of denotation

  • The medical denotation for hemorrhages is a severe case of piles.

This sentence tells us that hemorrhages means piles like when someone has severe constipation and anal protrusions.

  • The denotation for masochist is ‘someone who loves inflicting pain upon himself.’

This sentence tells us that a masochist is someone who likes to torture himself and, according to psychotherapists, this kind of masochistic behavior is very unhealthy.

  • The denotation for tangent is a straight line that touches a curve only once and does not intersect it.

This sentence defines a mathematical denotation. Here, denotation means ‘the explicit meaning.’ The meaning of tangent is a straight line that merely touches a curved surface at just one point and when drawn-out does not cross it.

Remember, denotation is the literal word for term. Hence, it is very rigid, as the meaning or translation of a word cannot change. However, connotation deals with perception and how one feels about a word, hence it is flexible and the communicator can freely attribute whichever emotion he likes with a word or phrase. Moreover, a single word can have two different connotations in different situations. Someone described as ‘tenacious’ might be perceived as having good qualities, but at times the same word can have a negative connotation like when you mean the person is ‘stubborn or rigid.’