Aug 12, 2016

Wordology, Denote and Connote

The difference between denotation and connotation is easy to confuse, because they describe related concepts. Both denotation and connotation stem from the Latin word notāre, meaning 'to note'.

The denotation of a word or phrase is its explicit, direct meaning.

The connotation of a word or phrase is an associated, secondary meaning. It can be something suggested or implied by a word or thing, rather than being explicitly named or described.

For example, the words home and house have similar denotations or primary meanings: a home is “a shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household,” and a house is “a building in which people live.” However,  both of these words carry different secondary meanings, or connotations. A home connotes a sense of belonging and comfort and house conveys little more than a structure.

One way to remember the difference between the terms is to take a hint from the prefix: 'con' comes from Latin and means 'together; with'. The connotation of a word works together with its denotation or explicit meaning.