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The difference between connotation vs denotation

The difference between connotation vs denotation

It is not uncommon for people to use the word denotation where they mean connotation and the other way around. It is easy to mix these two terms up.

They are two ways to define a word. This is the reason people tend to mess them up, they both deal with the meaning of a word. We use denotation and connotation in our writing and speech. The words we speak have two meanings: connotation and denotation.

Interestingly, both words have the same Latin root word. The root is ‘notare’ which translates to English as ‘to note.’

Connotation and denotation are homophones, they sound alike but have different meanings.

Enough of the similarities, let’s look at their differences?

So, what are their differences?

If you want to gain mastery of the English Language, and not get confused with all its intricacies, it is a must to know how to properly differentiate between connotation denotation.

What is Connotation? It is the idea a word suggests in addition to the meaning of the word; the underlying meaning or the feeling a word invokes.

What is Denotation? It is the literal or direct meaning of a word.

Words have two meanings – connotative and denotative. The problem is people make mistakes of not properly distinguishing between the connotative meaning of a word and its denotative meaning.

There is a clear relationship between words, its connotative and denotative meanings, and the users. 

Has someone ever said something to you and you are like ‘Dude, what are you saying?’ It is likely the person is using a connotation while you are interpreting the speech from the viewpoint of denotation.

Another way to look at the difference between connotation and denotation is to see denotation as the primary meaning of a word, and connotation as the secondary meaning of a word.

Connotation vs Denotation Examples

The connotation is the meaning of a word according to the context (cultural or personal) usage while denotation is the standard meaning of a word you easily get from a dictionary.

There is a lot of connotation vs denotation examples in the English Language. The phrase ‘a lot of’ is an understatement. Almost all words in the English Language have a connotation and a denotation. It all depends on the context the word is used.

For example, the word home has a connotative and denotative meaning. The denotative meaning of home is ‘a building structure where people live in’. Home as ‘a place of comfort and belonging’ is the connotative meaning. It is not necessarily a physical building.

‘Jim has a home in Alaska’ – From this sentence, the meaning is clear. Jim is telling us he has a physical building in Alaska he calls home. This is an example of denotation. We do not struggle with denotation, it’s the other that’s tricky.

‘He made my heart his home’ – This is an example of connotation. We have to dig deeper than the surface meaning to understand this sentence. The person is telling us how someone made his heart their home. It is impossible to build a physical structure in someone’s heart so that thought is canceled. The connotative meaning of home here is ‘He made me fall in love with him.’

Let’s look at another connotation vs denotation activity to test how well we are getting their differences.

The word baggage has both a connotative and denotative meaning. The denotative meaning is ‘a bag where we store items for easy transportation.’

‘Sarah forgot to take her baggage to the airport.’ – The baggage here is referring to a bag. This is the denotative meaning.

‘Sarah has baggage.’ – Now, this is tricky. Do you mean Sarah has a bag which is the denotative meaning of the word, or Sarah has some drama in her which is the connotative meaning.

To know what type of baggage it is – denotation or connotation, you have to know the context of usage. If the person is talking about items, going out, it is likely the person is referring to baggage as a bag. If the person is talking about feelings, it is likely the person is referring to baggage as negative drama.

Connotation vs Denotation Anchor Chart

Using an anchor chart is an effective way to teach the difference between connotation and denotation.

Connotation

Denotation

This refers to the suggested or implied meaning of a word.

This refers to the basic or actual meaning of a word.

Examples

Examples

Look at that dog – If you are referring to the human, you mean that human is ugly or acts like an animal.

Look at that dog – If you are referring to a dog, you mean ‘hey, that’s a dog.’

He is wearing a vintage shirt.

The store downtown sells a lot of vintage items.

 

This connotation vs denotation anchor chart explains everything. Knowing the basic difference between these two words will save you from misinterpreting what you read or hear. 

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