In literature, denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word. Connotation, on the other hand, is more complex. It refers to the deeper meaning that a word carries beyond its literal meaning. These meanings and associations are culturally determined. For example, a "chicken" is obviously a barnyard fowl. But if one describes a person as a "chicken" they are using a word that carries connotations of cowardice. To use a slightly more subtle example, in referring to the human body, "thin" and "skinny" denote essentially the same thing. They refer to a slender person. But "skinny" carries an unhealthy, or at least an unattractive connotation, whereas "thin" is more positive.