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Connotation vs. Denotation

Connotation vs. Denotation


Denotation: The literal or primary meaning of a word

Connotation: The ideas or feelings that a word invokes


ExampleThe Ocean                                                                      

Denotation: A large body of salt water that covers approximately 70% of the earth’s surface. Appears different shades of blue, often with waves and currents. Contains various types of plant and marine animal life.

Connotation: Peace, tranquility, expansiveness, the unknown, the power of nature, etc.


Some words have basically the same denotative meaning, but different connotations. For example, “Youthful” and “Childish” both describe the state of being similar to a child, but Youthful has a positive connotation (vibrant, lively, energetic) and Childishhas a negative connotation (immature, juvenile, having the emotional maturity of a child)


More examples!


House” vs. “Home”: House has a very straightforward connotation (the literal structure) vs. Home, which has connotations of family, security, comfort, and happiness.

Cheap” vs. “Affordable”: Although both words mean low-priced, Cheap has a connotation of being lower-quality while Affordable connotes something of quality that happens to be lower-priced.

Protest” vs. “Riot”: Protest has a more peaceful connotation, referring to something lawful whereas Riot is often used to connote a violent gathering of people who may be breaking the law.

Slender” vs. “Scrawny:” Both words mean thin, but Slender has a positive connotation (healthy, fit, attractive) whereas Scrawny has a negative one (underfed, unhealthy, unattractive)

Fired” vs. “Laid off”: Both words are used to describe losing one’s job. Fired has a negative connotation (the person did something wrong) whereas Laid off suggests a reason where the person losing their job was not at fault.

Economical” vs. “Stingy”: Both words describe something or someone who is frugal with money, however Economical (being smart with money) has a positive connotation and Stingy has a negative one (often used to describe someone who is greedy or selfish with their money).

Scent” vs. “Stench”: Both words mean “smell,” but Scent is often used to describe good smells (flowers, baked goods, etc.) while Stench connotes a negative smell.

Curious” vs. “Nosy”: Curious has a positive connotation, implying that the person is eager to know and learn. Nosy, on the other hand, implies a negative way of being overly curious or prying into other people’s business.

Disabled” vs. “Retarded”: Disabled is the accepted way to refer to someone with a handicap, Retarded, on the other hand, is considered offensive with very negative connotations and should not be used.

Group” vs. “Mob”: A Mob has a negative connotation of an unruly group, often with a violent purpose, whereas Group is neutral, and just means a number of people or things which are together.

Strategy” vs. “Scheme”: A Strategy is usually seen as a positive plan of action or way of doing something, whereas a Scheme has the connotation of a more devious plan, often involving trickery or wrongdoing.

 “Assertive” vs. “Pushy”: Being Assertive usually has positive connotations (being confident, decisive, letting your views be known) whereas Pushy has a negative connotation (being excessively assertive to the point of aggression or annoyance).


Download the PDF here: ConnotationDenotationOBP.pdf



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