Difference Between Connotation and Denotation (With table)

A connotation is created when we mention a word with some hidden meaning. Although connotation and denotation are two important methods to describe a word used in several types of creative writing, what differentiates connotation from denotation is that denotation is the direct meaning of the word. Connotation is much in contrast with denotation.

Connotation vs Denotation

The difference between connotation and denotation is that connotation is the hidden meaning or the emotional perspectives of a word whereas a denotation is directly the dictionary meaning of the word. Both are two very important methods in language, but both have their own specific places to fulfill.

Connotation is the secondary meaning of a word based on its emotional perspective, especially from the reader’s view. It adds extra meaning to the word depending on the background it is spoken about. Undertone, implication, and import are synonymous with connotation. It is to be kept in mind that connotations are only suggestive meanings and connotations can be classified into two divisions, positive and negative.

Denotation stands for the direct or primary meaning or meanings of a word or words by the definition of the dictionary. The words definition, meaning, indication, and implication are almost synonymous with the word denotation. It is used to signify or mean something specific. Denotations are the literal meaning of the respective word.

Comparison Table between Connotation and Denotation

Parameter of Comparison Connotation Denotation
DefinitionConnotation is the secondary meaning of a word which is mainly based on the cultural and emotional aspect.Denotation refers to the primary meaning of the word which is the literal meaning of the word according to the dictionary.
TypeIt is the indirect and hidden meaning of the word. It contains emotional overtones.It is the direct meaning of a word. It is factual.
ClassificationConnotation can be classified into two types, positive and negative. There is also another type of connotation known as the neutral connotation.Denotation cannot be classified.
Effect of culture and religionMight change depending on the social, cultural, and religious impact of a particular region.Remains unchanged in respect to the culture and religion of a region.
Meaning Connotations are subjective meaning.Denotations are the primary meanings

What is Connotation?

A connotation of a word which signifies the cultural or the emotional association of the word which is a little different from the direct meaning of the word. Connotations are the suggestive meanings of a word. The word connotation has come from the Latin word “connotation” meaning “signify in addition to the main meaning”. It can either be positive or be negative. Connotation is mainly used to relate how a thing or a set of things can be related to a word or a phrase based on its emotional or social judgment. In other words, the connotation can be described as the feeling or idea of a word. However, it is preferable to avoid words with strong connotations.
For example, When one says, “He is such a dog”, here the dog is not meant in its literal sense. Rather, the dog is used to denote the shamelessness, or ugliness of a dog. Similarly, a heart can be used to define love or affection to someone. Here love and affection is the connotation of the heart.

What is Denotation?

In simple words, denotation may be defined as the literal meaning of a word. The word denotation has come from the Latin word “denotation” meaning “indication” It is similar to the way dictionaries are used to define the word. The denotation of a word is generally perceived through visible concepts. In short, the denotation of a word is devoid of feelings or emotions. It can either be an act of using a symbol as well as a word. Denotation is very important to get a clear view of a particular word but is not a good option when it comes to expressing the creative side.  denotation implies the primary meaning of the word. The prominent feature of the denotations is that they cannot be classified into any divisions.

Denotation is important in literature as it conveys a certain mood which the author or writer wants to convey. The writer needs to be observant about his or her word choices which have to be very precise, as any minor substitution will affect the tone and mood of the writing. Examples of denotation include, The boy was too tough to handle, (meaning he was too strong to be handled). He is too pushy. (Meaning he is pushing people in literal terms).

Main Differences between Connotation and Denotation

  1. Connotation is the secondary meaning of a word whereas denotation implies the primary meaning of the word.
  2. Connotations are suggestive meanings whereas denotations are literal meanings.
  3. Connotation of a word implies a hidden or an indirect meaning, while denotation means a straightforward meaning.
  4. The connotation of the word is the emotional or cultural association of the word but a denotation is the direct or literal meaning of the word which is usually similar to the definition of the word by the dictionary.
  5. Connotation can be classified into mainly two types which are positive connotation and negative connotation. Another type of connotation is also present which is known as neutral connotation. Denotation has no such classifications.
  6. One of the main factors on which the connotation of a word depends is the culture and religion of a particular place. But the denotation of a word is free from all such factors and hence remains unchanged with the effect of religion and culture.


Connotation and denotation are two such words that are much different from each other by their meanings or in other words they are in contrast to each other. But these two are not completely different things, rather two different aspects of one single thing. A connotation is used to represent various types of social overtones, emotional and cultural implications that are hidden inside a word. A denotation straight away signifies the dictionary definition of a word. It is the explicit or referential meaning or association of a word. Although connotations might be the reason for confusion or complexity in several places indeed it is one of the best ways to brighten creative writings. Both of these terms can be used in two different ways- grammatical and logical. In short, it can be said that connotative language is the one with emotional overtones and a denotative one is factual.


  1. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-009-9777-6_11
  2. https://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-HYKJ201608003.htm
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