An ELT Glossary : Denotation and Connotation

  • Denotation = the basic meaning of a word

  • Connotation = the evaluative, emotive etc meaning associated with the word

  • Example : slim and scrawny. Both of these mean thin - the denotation. However, slim has a positive connotation suggesting attractiveness, whereas scrawny has a negative connotation suggesting the person/animal is undernourished and unpleasantly thin.

  • Example : cottage. This really only means a small house (the denotation) . However, it also has emotive associations of warmth, cosiness, friendliness etc. These are its connotations