Denotative vs Connotative Meanings

Often, when we want to define words in a text, these words have more definitions that just the dictionary definition.

We might say that many words come with two definitions, the denotative meaning, and the connotative meaning.

With denotative meaning, we mean that word’s literal meaning.

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Basically, when you wonder what a word means in the denotative meaning, you can just look that word up in a dictionary.

The definition in the dictionary describes the denotative meaning of the word.

Mini-test: Denotative and Connotative Meanings


1. Which of the words below has the most negative connotation:


Question 1 of 2

2. Which of the following words has the most positive connotation:


Question 2 of 2


Next Lesson: Conjecture Meaning

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Now the connotative meaning of a word involves also the emotional reaction or value that word could invoke.

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That is depending on the associations a reader may have with this word. So, this goes a bit further than the word’s denotative meaning.

Denotative meanings are, in general, used in non-fiction literary works. In non-fiction, writers aren’t trying to write in a flowery way and usually don’t use figurative language. The actual definition or meaning of a word is what that word is meaning in its context.

In works of fiction, however, a word’s connotative meaning is often met. You’ll see that it is important that a reader learns to differentiate between when denotative or connotative meanings are being used.

Usually, readers can determine that by examining the context clues and learn whether an author is using the connotative or denotative meaning of a word.



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