Guide to Literary Terms

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Connotation

Connotation - suggestions and associations which surround a word as opposed to its bare, literal meaning. It is the opposite of denotation. Literature uses connotation; science and philosophy use denotation. Connotation refers to qualities, attributes, and characteristics implied or suggested by the word and depends upon the context in which the word is used. Metaphors depend a great deal on connotation. Connotations often elicit emotional responses from the reader.

The word is from the Latin connotare, meaning “to mark together.”

In his love poetry, John Donne often uses the word “die” which in the Renaissance had a sexual connotation, such as in these lines from “The Canonization:”

"We die and rise the same and prove mysterious by this love.”

see: context, device, figure of speech, metaphor