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Denotation and Connotation Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 29, 2011

Denotation and Connotation

In this lesson, you'll find that a word may suggest something quite different from what it really means.

EVERY WORD HAS a denotation—its definition as found in a dictionary. But many words also have a connotation—the feelings or images they bring to mind.

    Example 1

    snake
    Denotation: scaly, legless reptile
    Connotation: danger, evil, disloyal person

Even words that mean the same may have different connotations. Think about the synonyms scary and terrifying. They have similar meanings, but produce different feelings. There's a big difference between the scary sound of the howling wind and a terrifying experience like falling off a cliff!

Authors choose words to influence how readers feel. The words may suggest positive or negative connotations.

    Example 2

    I saw many homeless people on the streets of the city. (positive)
    I saw many bums on the streets of the city. (negative)

Here are a few more positive and negative connotations of words.

As you read, look for both positive and negative connotations. Ask yourself why the author wants you to get that connotation.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Denotation and Connotation Practice Exercises

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