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What is the definition of connotation?

The definition of connotation is the implied or secondary meaning of a particular word or thing—a meaning which is not explicitly communicated, but that is associated with the word or thing.


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Last Updated on May 25, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 177

Connotation refers to the implied or secondary meaning of a particular word or phrase. This meaning needs to be explicitly communicated. The opposite of connotation is denotation. Connotation is often used in literature and drama to develop characters, to establish tone indirectly, and in instances of figurative language such as metaphor.


Connotation derives from the Medieval Latin word connotare (“to signify in addition to the primary meaning”), from the Latin com (“with”) and notare (“to mark, to note”).


An example of connotation is in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

(Act 3, Scene 2, line 73)


In this line, the speaker, Mark Anthony, isn’t literally asking people to let him borrow their ears. Instead, he uses “ears” to connote listening, meaning he asks them to listen to him. 


Connotation is also used in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, an allegorical novel in which various farm animals connote different types of humans. For example, pigs connote corrupt rulers, and a horse named Boxer connotes the working class. 


see: denotationallegorymetaphor

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