Do You Connote What I’m Denoting?

Where do you look to find the meaning of a word? A dictionary, of course. There you will find all the literal meanings of a word, its definition—its denotation.

Denote also means to signify or indicate. The blue wheelchair symbol in a parking lot denotes that spot as a handicapped parking area.

Most words also have a connotation—an association in addition to the literal meaning. A word’s connotation implies something about it—giving a hint or suggesting a connection.

The words house and home both refer to a dwelling. But home conveys (connotes) a sense of warmth, welcoming, and belonging that house does not.

Determined and stubborn denote resoluteness. Stubborn, however, connotes rigidity, even an unyielding defiance that is absent from determined.

Here’s an important distinction to note: words and symbols connote; people imply.

  • The orange cones on the highway connote a construction zone.
  • Martha’s pointing out the cones to Richard implied, “Watch your speed, dear.”

Words have the potential to connote positive or negative emotions, impressions, or characters. It’s worth taking the time to choose the right word to convey just what you want your reader to know or feel.

2 Responses to “Do You Connote What I’m Denoting?”

  1. Karen MacDougall July 17, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    It was only just recently brought home to me the importance of choosing the right word as you advised, for it is surprising how the (mis)interpretation of a single word can colour a reader’s impression of a character, regardless of later narrative.

  2. tubedupe November 20, 2019 at 12:23 pm #

    A connotation is a commonly understood cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to its explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation .

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