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Vocabulary in Context. AP English Lit. & Comp. Context. To understand and absorb new vocabulary, you need to look at th e entire context of the word, considering the following: Denotation Connotation Etymology. Denotation.

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Vocabulary in context

Vocabulary in Context

AP English Lit. & Comp.


  • To understand and absorb new vocabulary, you need to look at the entire context of the word, considering the following:

    • Denotation

    • Connotation

    • Etymology


  • Denotation is a word’s literal meaning. A dictionary is useful here, as is your deductive reasoning.

  • The denotation of a word is defined by

    • A. The meaning of the word

    • B. How the word relates to the rest of the sentence

Denotation example
Denotation Example:

  • What an antediluvian pair of pants Mrs. Hatcher is wearing; she must have bought them during the stone age.

    • You could:

      • 1. Look it up in a dictionary (meaning of the word)

      • 2. See that “antediluvian” is used to describe pants that are also described as being bought in the “stone age.” From this you could deduce that the pants must look old.


  • Connotation is what a word suggests. Here, you want to consider:

    • A. What the word sounds or looks like

    • B. What metaphors or images the word helps create

Connotation example
Connotation Example

  • Returning to Mrs. Hatcher’s pants, you might notice that:

    • 1. The word antediluvian has six syllables, so it is long, which seems to emphasize “long, long ago”

    • 2. It may remind you of words such as dilapidated or antiquated

    • 3. You might also see that is reinforces the “stone age” hyperbole, adding to the clear exaggeration.


  • The final element in context. Etymology refers to:

    • A. The meanings of a word’s roots, suffixes, and prefixes

    • B. The word’s historical origins

Etymology example
Etymology Example

  • Back to the antediluvian pants…

    • Latin Roots

      • 1. Ante – means “before”

      • 2. diluvian – means “flood” (think dilute, deluge)

    • The selection of this word over other synonyms (like prehistoric, primitive, or old) adds an element of hyperbole and humor by saying that they pants are so old them must have survived the Biblical flood.


  • Context includes –

    • Denotation

    • Connotation

    • Etymology

  • Task: Find a word in “Twelfth Night” that you do not know. Use the resources at your disposal to break down the word in context.