Connotation denotation
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Connotation & Denotation. Denotation.

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Connotation & Denotation

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Connotation denotation

Connotation & Denotation



  • The denotative meaning of a word is its literal meaning – the definition you’d find in the dictionary. Take the word “mother,” for example. The dictionary would define mother as “a female parent.” OK, but the word “mother” probably creates emotions and feelings in you: it paints a picture in your mind. You may think of love and security or you may think of your own mother. The emotions and feelings that a word creates are called its connotative meaning.



  • The word “cat.” The denotative meaning (how the dictionary defines “cat”) is: “a carnivorous mammal, domesticated as a rat catcher or pet.” But what is its connotative meaning? It depends. If you like cats, the word “cat” may suggest graceful motion, affectionate playfulness, noble reserve and admirable self-sufficiency. If you don’t, the word might suggest stealthiness, spitefulness, coldness and haughty disdain.

Personal connotation

Personal Connotation

  • Personal connotation is what we’ve just described with the word “cat.” It’s the emotions or feelings a word creates in you or in any one individual.

General connotation

General Connotation

  • General connotation is different – it’s what a word means to a large group of people; a mind picture that is shared.



  • Take a man’s beard. In Victorian times, the image of a bearded man was that of a proper older gentleman – a grandfather, perhaps. But in the1960’s, a bearded man came to mean “unshaven hippie.” General connotation doesn’t mean that everybody in the world thinks the same way about something, just that large groups of people do.

One event two stories

One Event, Two Stories

A.Five teenagers were loitering on the corner. As their raucous laughter cut through the air, we noticed their sloppy black leather jackets and their greasy dyed hair. They slouched against a building with cigarettes dangling contemptuously from their mouths.

One event two stories1

One Event, Two Stories

B.Five youngsters stood on the corner. As the joy of their laughter filled the air, we noticed their smooth loose-fitting jackets and the gleam of their colorful hair. They relaxed against a building smoking evenly on cigarettes that seemed almost natural in their serious young mouths.

Politically correct

Politically Correct

  • Since there are many words with negative connotations, people often use a form of speech called a euphemism to try and say the same thing in a more positive or pleasant way. Instead of saying “you’re fired,” they say “we’re downsizing.” Instead of talking about a corpse, they use the word “remains.” Instead of calling somebody “short,” they say “vertically challenged.” Since many people try not to offend, which of course is good, we end up with some pretty weird euphemisms – many coined in the name of Political Correctness and some made up just to be funny or have fun.



  • freeway

  • highway

  • lane

  • parkway

  • passage

  • pavement, place

  • road

  • roadway

  • route

  • row

  • stroll

  • terrace

  • thoroughfare track

  • trail

  • turf

  • way

  • artery

  • avenue

  • alley

  • boulevard

  • byway

  • court

  • dead end

  • drag

  • drive

Connotation and denotation graphic organizer

Connotation and Denotation Graphic Organizer

Connotation denotation


  • The atmosphere that pervades a literary work with the intention of evoking a certain emotion or feeling from the audience.



  • The accent, inflection, intonation, and speech-sound quality manifested by an individual speaker, usually judged in terms of prevailing standards of acceptability; enunciation

  • In other words – word choice!

word choice!

Word choice

Word Choice

  • The words that are chosen in a specific sentence affect the mood.

  • Words are the writer’s basic tools:

  • They create the color and texture of the written work. They both reflect and determine the level of formality. They shape the reader’s perceptions.

Effective voice is shaped by words that are clear concrete and exact

Effective voice is shaped by words that are clear, concrete and exact.

  • Good writers eschew words like pretty, nice, and bad.

  • Instead, they use words that invoke a specific effect

    • A coat isn’t torn; it is tattered.

    • A door does not shut; it thuds.

  • Specific diction brings the reader into the scene, enabling full participation in the writer’s world.

So what do diction and mood have to do with denotation and connotation

So, what do diction and mood have to do with denotation and connotation?

Connotation denotation

  • When a writer calls a character slender, the word evokes a different feeling from calling the character gaunt.

  • A word’s power to produce a strong reaction in the reader lies mainly in its connotative meaning.




  • Denotation: the definition of a word

  • Connotation: a secondary meaning of a word

    • General Connotation: the meaning elicited by a large group of people

    • Personal Connotation: a private meaning

  • Diction: word choice

  • Mood: the feeling or emotional response of a literary work

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