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Grade 9
Sep 5, 2022

A word’s denotation is its literal, straightforward meaning, distinct from any emotional or cultural associations. When readers use a dictionary to look up a word, the definition they find is the word’s denotation. Although many words have similar denotations, some contain subtle differences in meaning that can greatly affect how the words are understood. 

By learning to recognize the nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations, writers will be able to choose the right words for the ideas they wish to convey. 

  • Denotation identifies the dictionary definition of words. 
  • Connotation identifies the emotional and cultural associations of a word. Connotations can expand a word’s meaning. 

Perhaps lesser known is the role of connotations in word meaning. Connotations are the emotional meanings that words may have, even if the words have approximately the same denotations. The influence of connotative meaning can affect a word’s denotative meaning. Although most denotative meanings are neutral, connotations can be positive or negative to varying degrees. It’s important to know that connotations and denotations are not separate aspects of any individual word. Rather, connotations and denotations exist together. Words with similar denotations can still have subtle differences in meaning due to their social, cultural, or emotional connotations. A word’s nuance is a subtlety in its meaning that makes it different from other similar words.



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