Guide to Literary Terms

Start Your Free Trial

Difference Between Connotation And Denotation

Explain the difference between denotation and connotation and give an example of each.

Expert Answers info

Dayna Watsica eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write4,795 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

 

Since the above answer are good, I will add a new angle with examples. More importantly, I will offer some insight, hopefully, of how to use these concepts in interpreting passages.

A common misunderstanding in interpreting a passage is to look for meaning in individual words. On the surface this point sounds counterintuitive. After all, do not words convey meaning? However, some reflection will show that meaning is found in contexts, because the denotation or definition of words is broad. A brief look at any dictionary will make this point clear. Moisés Silva writes that most people would say that the word “bar” refers to an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages, but he also points out that there are other meanings as well. “Bar” can in a different context be used to refer to a straight metal object found on many windows. One could also add another meaning if one changes the context and focuses on the court of law. With a little thought, one can multiply examples endlessly. Linguists call this aspect of words, polysemy. The point is that meanings can change, even radically, based on the context. Therefore, responsible interpretation will recognize that the meaning of words is almost entirely contextual.

Connotation differs from denotation in that the former is related to the subjective and cultural experiences of individuals. For example, when a person uses the word, “father,” it will not be value free. A father may connote various other thoughts and feelings such as kindness, severity, love, or abuse. Therefore, in interpreting a passage, it will be important to ask what words connote in that particular context. Also it will be important to...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 569 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

kiwi eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write1,176 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


jerryants | Student

Denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word, the "dictionary definition."¨ For example, if you look up the word snake in a dictionary, you will discover that one of its denotative meanings is "any of numerous scaly, legless, sometimes venomous reptiles having a long, tapering, cylindrical body and found in most tropical and temperate regions."

Connotation, on the other hand, refers to the associations that are connected to a certain word or the emotional suggestions related to that word. The connotative meanings of a word exist together with the denotative meanings. The connotations for the word snake could include evil or

check Approved by eNotes Editorial