Connotation and Denotation
Words have duel meaning, a straight forward or literal meaning and a hidden meaning that is connected to the emotions and imagination. In other words they have both denotative and connotative meanings. Denotation is the literal or dictionary meaning of a word and connotation meaning is related to the emotional association that we attach to a word. For example, the word snake has two meanings; the literal meaning is that of a scaly reptile that slithers on the ground. The connotative meaning is different when we refer to the snake we think of evil. Many words carry two meanings, an actual meaning which is known as denotation and an imaginative or emotional meaning, known as connotation. We will understand the concept better if we look at an example of connotation in a sentence and analyze it.
Harry is a chicken; he cannot face his enemies face to face.
Literal meaning of ‘chicken’ is a small animal that tastes good, but the implied meaning of chicken is something else here. The connotative meaning of chicken means is somebody who is a coward or is afraid to face danger.
Denotation in a sentence
Denotation means literal or real meaning of a word that is given in a dictionary. To explain further let us look at a denotation in a sentence and analyze it thoroughly to get the literal meaning of a word.
I saw a white dove flying against a blue sky.
Literal or actual meaning of the word ‘dove’ a small bird that is docile and harmless. In this sentence dove refers to the actual bird.
Connotation in a sentence
Connotative meaning of the word is not so straight forward, it is imaginative, and relates to some idea, concept of emotion. Let us look at the earlier example, a ‘white dove’ the symbolic meaning of a white dove is peace. So if we apply connotative meaning to the above sentence its meaning changes. The individual saw the emblem of peace in the sky.
Connotation and Denotation
Denotation is exactly what the dictionary says, many words have similar denotative meaning but their connotative means depends on the context in which they are used. Take the example of the word ‘quest’. The literal meaning of quest is in search of something. There are several other meanings of quest, these are hunt, seeking, journey, mission, enterprise. While quest sounds good, hunt that has the same meaning appears to be a little negative. Hunt is generally connected with an aggressive action, and gives negative meaning. Depending on the context a word conveys a negative or positive meaning.
Let us look at the way the word ‘hunt’ and the way it is used in three sentence
· I am going on a hunt with my friends
· The police has started a hunt for the perpetrators of the crime
· Let us hunt together for better opportunities.
In the first sentence the word hunt is used in the neutral form, to catch or kill wild animals.
The same word takes a negative shade in the second sentence, here it means pursuit in order to punish. The third sentence has more positive vibes, here the word means going on a mission or journey to seek better opportunities.
The above example shows that there are three types of connotations, neutral, negative and positive, depending on the feelings associated with the word.
The word neutral means that no feelings, positive or negative, are attached, so a neutral connotation means something that does not engage emotional feelings.
Example: Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world
The highest in this sentence is simply stating a fact, there are no feelings, positive or negative are attached to it.
Negative and Positive Connotations
Negative and positive connotations are related to feelings implied or expressed in a sentence. In other words, negative and positive feelings depend on the context in which the same word is used. The context changes the meaning of the same word. Let us use the same word ‘highest’ we have used in the neutral sentence.
Example: (1) Jim has become a CEO; he has reached the highest pinnacle of his career.
(2) Jack deserves the highest punishment for the crime he has committed.
The word ‘highest’ is used to mean the top level in the first sentence to shows positive connotation. The same word ‘highest’ is used in the second sentence to convey a negative meaning.
List of some positive, negative and neutral connotations, generally used in every day language.