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What Is Denotation? (with Examples)

What Is Denotation? (with Examples)

Denotation is the literal meaning of a word. (You can think of denotation as the dictionary definition of a word.)

Denotation contrasts with connotation, which refers to the feelings or ideas suggested by a word.

So, the literal meaning of a word is the word's denotation, and the non-literal meaning of a word (e.g., based on an implication or a shared emotional association) is the word's connotation.

Examples of Denotation and Connotation for the Same Word

Here are some examples of denotation and connotation associated with the same word:

WordDenotationConnotation
FoxRed small wild dogAttractive lady
GreasyCovered in greaseCreepy
SnakeLong legless reptileUntrustworthy person

Positive and Negative Connotations of Words with Similar Denotations

Here are some examples of words with a similar denotation but very different connotations:

Word with a Positive Connotation Word with a Negative Connotation Approximate Denotation of Both
SlenderSkinnyThin
AssertiveDomineeringForceful
MeticulousNitpickingThorough
EconomicalTight fistedCost-effective
YouthfulChildishYoung
TenaciousStubbornPersistent
UnassumingPlainNormal
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