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Denotation vs. Connotation

A presentation on the differences between connotation and denotation.

Mary Romagnoli

on 8 September 2016

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Transcript of Denotation vs. Connotation

Denotation vs. Connotation
Figuring out what it all really means...
DENOTATION is the dictionary
definition of a word.
It is a word's meaning in its
most literal sense.
For example, the denotation
of the word "hot" might mean
that something has a high
temperature or that it is
burning. The literal,
dictionary definition of a
word is its
However, the CONNOTATION of a word is not meant to be taken literally. It's intended meaning
evokes emotion and feelings, or the figurative meaning.
EX) Let's use the same word, "hot," but this time look at how it could be used in a different connotation...

* She looks hot today...
* When they took his car away, he was hot...
In other words...
She looks pretty today.
She doesn't look like she's on fire,
so we can't take the word "hot"
to have its denotative meaning...
When they took his car away, he was angry. Once again, he doesn't seem to be on fire and he doesn't look like he's coming down with a temperature, so the connotation of "hot" in this case means that the man was upset or angry.
Connotation is how a word is meant to be understood--it might call upon your emotions & what YOU think of when you see/hear/read the word.
The Dictionary Definition:
Its Literal Meaning
A building in which
people live
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
(cc) photo by theaucitron on Flickr
Sometimes, different words can have the same DENOTATIONS, but have
, or
I think we could all agree that this is a picture of an old woman.
However, there is a much nicer way of saying "old." Think of words that are more positive and polite...

On the other hand, there are negative connotations of the word "old." Think of words that have negative connotations...
Old fashion

All of these descriptions have the SAME DENOTATION! They all have the same literal meaning:
"far advanced in the years of one's life."
However, we know that people do not respond to such words in the same manner. Don't believe me? You probably wouldn't want someone to call your grandma "that old lady," but if they called her "that elderly lady" you might not be as upset...
That's why it is so important to be aware of our word choice when we write and to pay attention to other author's word choice when we read. Pay attention to what is REALLY being said and think about what you REALLY mean before you write!
Let's take a look at another example. We'll use the word "home."
Grammar Skill
Bell Work:
Sometimes in the hall, I'll hear students say:

"That's so retarded!"
You try!
Is that actually the definition?
Again, what does this mean?
What about....

"Dude, she's crazy!"
Read Mitt Romney's speech from the Republican National Convention the other night. Then, answer the first two questions on your worksheet.

STOP once you have finished the first two!

Now, let's see how author's use word choice to convey tone and mood.
Now, complete the rest of the worksheet with the use of the transcripts.
Now, read/listen to the excerpt from Clint Eastwood's speech from the same place, to the same audience, about the same topic.
What is the difference?
"Here's a scholarship that you might qualify for," said Mike's advisor. "It's for people who are __________ ."

a) Broke
b) poor
c) underprivileged
Pick the most appropriate word based on its connotation.
"Buster was a puny dog. He couldn't even scare the cat that lived next door."

What is the denotation meaning of the word puny in the sentence above?

a) small
b) large
c) noisy
d) heavy
Helen was guarded about her private life. She did not like to give anyone details about herself.

What does the word guarded suggest about Helen in the sentence above?

a) She was excited about her life.
b) She does not care about her life.
c) She is protective over her life.
d) She is bored with her life.
An idea or feeling that a word invokes.

This is the definition of...
a) denotation
b) connotation
Quick Check! Sign language:
The dictionary definition of a word.

This is the definition of...
a) denotation
b) connotation
In GSA format:

1) How do authors use connotation and denotation in their writing?

2) Give one example of a word that has a different connotation than denotation.
WE WILL BE ABLE TO analyze the denotation and the connotation of specific words.
What do they mean when they say this?

Is it okay? At all? Ever?
Practice: For each of the following words, explain the DENOTATION. Then, develop two words with the same denotation, but a positive connotation and two words with the same denotation but a negative connotation.
Now, rewrite the following sentences, but change one word to a synonym with a positive connotation.
That woman wearing the rainbow jacket and roller skates is quite odd.
My aunt is always calling me to talk about my day. She's so nosy!
My parents always need to know where I am, they're so overprotective.
Maria won't spend any money on anything she says is "unnecessary." She's so cheap!
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