Connotation vs. Denotation

I'm pretty sure everyone gets confused when they see these two words. Well, I'm gonna teach you everything about them.

"Connotation" vs. "Denotation" in English

What Is Their Main Difference?

Both of them refer to the different meanings of a word. However, 'connotation' indicates the metaphorical meanings of a word. In other words, the feeling we get from a word is all 'connotative meanings'. 'Denotation', on the contrary, is the actual meaning of a word.


As stated above, 'denotation' refers to the literal meaning of a word. we do not have any feelings for it. Check out the following examples:

Well, literally suitcase is just a big bad with an iron handle that is used to carry stuff.

This one is a denotation of 'suitcase' because we are talking about the actual definition of this word.

If you only consider the denotations of words in poems, you won't enjoy what you're reading.

'Connotation', on the other hand, refers to the metaphorical meanings of a word. It can be one or more. The feelings you get are what matters here. In literature, most words are used with connotative meanings, not denotative ones. Check out the following examples:

When I first heard the term 'sweet soul music', I felt that it was calm and relaxing.

Here, we are referring to the connotative meaning of the phrase because 'sweet' literally means food that tastes sugary.

Why do we tend to believe that 'boss' is someone who orders around and belittles others?

Here, we are talking about the negative connotation of 'boss'.


Both of these words point out the different meanings of words. Check out the following examples:

Does 'boss' have a negative connotation or a positive one for you?

Literature students are particularly interested in finding out the connotations rather than the denotations.

Are They Interchangeable?

Although both of these words point out the different meanings of a word, they can never be used interchangeably because they are opposites. Compare:

It's a solid, brown colored object with four legs and it is used for writing something down or having lunch on.

This one is a denotation of the word 'table'.

Solidity and firmness come to my mind when I think of a table.

In this sentence, we are pointing out the connotations of 'table'.


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