I need examples of denotation and connotation. All words have a denotation and connotation. The denotation refers to the most basic or specific meaning of a word. In contrast, a connotation is an idea that is suggested by or associated with a word. For example, the word home is just a name of structure, but the word has connotation of a nation, a place of warmth, comfort, and affection. 

An example of the difference between connotation and denotation can be found in the distinction between the words "childish" and "childlike." While the denotations for these two words are essentially identical, the first has a more insulting connotation while the latter reads as more whimsical and positive.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A word’s denotation is its dictionary definition. A word’s connotation is the emotional baggage, so to speak, that it has acquired through popular usage. Consider words that we use to describe types of laughter: giggle, cackle, snicker, and chortle. They all name a kind of laughing, but they have really different connotations. The word giggle connotatively suggests innocence, youthfulness, and maybe even silliness. The word cackle, on the other hand, connotatively suggests age and has a distinctly witchy feeling about it, because of lots of fictional witches who cackle wildly: Disney’s Witch Hazel, the Wicked Witch of the West, and so on. The word snicker connotatively suggests a bit of mean-spiritedness, like a group of people who are laughing at someone else. Finally, the word chortle connotatively suggests a rather dignified laugh of someone of high rank who might even be British. All of these connotations accrue through usage.

Consider another group of words that has to do with being smart: intelligent, nerd, and egghead. Intelligent has a pretty positive connotation; mostly people would not mind being called intelligent. The words nerd and egghead, however, have connotations that are more negative, as though the person only possesses book smarts, as opposed to street smarts, and that being book-smart is really the only thing they have going for them.

Consider, also, words like inexpensive and cheap. Both are adjectives that describe something that doesn’t cost much money; however, inexpensive is far more positive in connotation than cheap is. If something is inexpensive, for example, it sounds like a good deal, like one is getting something for less money than is typical or expected. Cheap, however, is quite negative connotatively, as though the thing it describes is of poor quality or value.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on


An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Connotative language lands with an emotional punch, be it positive or negative, whereas denotative words try as hard as possible to be devoid of emotion. Denotation is the dry, clinical language of science, but note as I write that that the words "dry" and "clinical" have a negative connotation: most people read a scientific paper for information, not pleasure. This leads to the idea that while we have to be careful not to be manipulated by it, we like connotative language because it appeals to our emotions, and because connotative language appeals to both both mind and feeling; it sticks with us more.

Some examples of denotative language come from science: the terms "source data" for example, or "participants" in a study don't elicit an emotional response. On the other hand, as we move towards the political and personal, words become more and more connotative. A word like "frugal," for example, carries a positive value of careful money management that has a moral overtone, while "tightwad," which means the same thing, has a negative moral connotation, implying someone who holds onto their money too closely.

When we move to politics, connotations get more and more explosive. Call someone a fascist, which is, denotatively, simply a description of a certain set of political beliefs, and see how they react. They will probably be insulted and defensive as the word has a heavily negative connotation in our culture—and a friendship might end over that label. Likewise, words like rights and entitlements, which mean the same thing, have different connotations. You never, for example, hear Second Amendment supporters speak of the entitlement to bear arms: it is always a right, as the word entitlements sounds spoiled and demanding while the word rights sounds pure, basic, and fair.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Denotation can be thought of as dictionary meanings or definitions. Connotation 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 text, it will be important to ask what words connote in that particular context. Also it will be important to realize that words can connote very different notions with a change in time and place. Here is another example from the modern day. Bad can mean something not good, but among some young people, "bad" can mean cool. The connotation of the word is radically different!

I will add a link that discusses all of your concerns plus more. Read carefully.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Please consider these examples:

skinny, thin, and slender. These three words all mean having less weight on one's body than what might be considered average. But the connotations differ since the suggested meanings of skinny and thin are often more negative than slender, with skinny potentially the most negative of the three.

childlike and childish both mean characteristic of a child; however, childlike suggests innocence, meekness and wide-eyed wonder, while chidish suggests immaturity, pettiness, and willfulness.

horses and coursers both denotes equinines, but coursers has the suggestion of agile and dainty equinines.

new denotes of recent origin, but the connotation can suggest better, improved

cheap and inexpensive both denote not costly, but the connotation of cheap suggests something is of poor quality whereas inexpensive does not.

Often connotation is a result of the context of a word. For instance, if one says that the dog barked, the connotation is neutral, but if one says that the manager barked orders at his staff, the connotation is clearly negative.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are plenty of examples that you can think of.  For example:

  • The word "snake" simple denotes a reptile.  But it has the connotation of someone who can not be trusted, someone who cheats, and/or someone who will do harm to you if they can.
  • In American English, both "kid" and "child" have the same denotation, but "kid" has a much more playful and affectionate connotation.
  • In business/economic terms, the word "outsourcing" denotes having a different firm do some of the work that helps build or create the product that your firm makes.  But the connotation of this word is very negative.  It has the connotation of hiring cheap labor, usually in a foreign country, and destroying American jobs.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial