AskDefine | Define connotation

Dictionary Definition



1 what you must know in order to determine the reference of an expression [syn: intension]
2 an idea that is implied or suggested

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A meaning of a word or phrase that is suggested or implied, as opposed to a denotation, or literal meaning. A characteristic of words or phrases, or of the contexts that words and phrases are used in.
    The connotations of the phrase "you are a dog" are that you are physically unattractive or morally reprehensible, not that you are a canine.



Related terms


suggested or implied meaning
  • Czech: konotace
  • Danish: konnotation, medbetydning, bibetydning
  • Dutch: connotatie, bijbetekenis, bijklank, associatie, gevoelswaarde
  • Finnish: konnotaatio
  • French: connotation
  • German: Konnotation, Nebenbedeutung, Beiklang, Beigeschmack
  • Indonesian: konotasi
  • Norwegian: konnotasjon
  • Portuguese: conotação
  • Spanish: connotación

External links

  •, the first subjective dictionary and collaborative word connotation database

Extensive Definition

This word has distinct meanings in other fields: see connotation (semiotics) and connotation and denotation. For the opposite of Connotation see Denotation.
Connotation is a subjective cultural and/or emotional coloration in addition to the explicit or denotative meaning of any specific word or phrase in a language, i.e. emotional association with a word.


Within contemporary society, connotation branches into a mixture of different meanings. These could include the contrast of a word or phrase with its primary, literal meaning (known as a denotation), with what that word or phrase specifically denotes. The connotation essentially relates to how anything may be associated with a word or phrase, for example, an implied value judgment or feelings.
  • A stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willed connotes admiration for the level of someone's will, while pig-headed connotes frustration in dealing with someone. Likewise, used car and previously owned car have the same literal meaning, but many dealerships prefer the latter, since it is thought to have fewer negative connotations.
  • It is often useful to avoid words with strong connotations (especially disparaging ones) when striving to achieve a neutral point of view. A desire for more positive connotations, or fewer negative ones, is one of the main reasons for using euphemisms.


In logic and in some branches of semantics, connotation is more or less synonymous with intension. Connotation is often contrasted with denotation, which is more or less synonymous with extension. Alternatively, the connotation of the word may be thought of as the set of all its possible referents (as opposed to merely the actual ones). A word's denotation is the collection of things it refers to; its connotation is what it implied about the things it is used to refer to. The denotation of dog is (something like) four-legged canine carnivore. So saying "you are a dog" would imply that you were ugly or aggressive rather than stating that you were canine.


See also

connotation in Danish: Konnotation
connotation in German: Konnotation
connotation in Estonian: Konnotatsioon
connotation in Hebrew: קונוטציה
connotation in Dutch: Connotatie
connotation in Polish: Konotacja
connotation in Finnish: Konnotaatio
connotation in Swedish: Konnotation
connotation in Ukrainian: Коннотація

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

affective meaning, allegory, allusion, arcane meaning, assumption, bearing, coloration, coloring, consequence, denotation, drift, effect, essence, extension, force, gist, grammatical meaning, hint, idea, impact, implication, implied meaning, import, inference, innuendo, intension, intimation, ironic suggestion, lexical meaning, literal meaning, meaning, metaphorical sense, nuance, occult meaning, overtone, pertinence, pith, point, practical consequence, presumption, presupposition, purport, range of meaning, real meaning, reference, referent, relation, relevance, scope, semantic cluster, semantic field, sense, significance, signification, significatum, signifie, span of meaning, spirit, structural meaning, subsense, subsidiary sense, substance, suggestion, sum, sum and substance, supposition, symbolic meaning, symbolism, tenor, tinge, totality of associations, touch, transferred meaning, unadorned meaning, undercurrent, undermeaning, undertone, value
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