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Connotation is a subjective cultural and/or emotional coloration in addition to the explicit or denotative meaning of any specific word or phrase in a language, i.e. emotional association with a word.


Within contemporary society, connotation branches into a mixture of different meanings. These could include the contrast of a word or phrase with its primary, literal meaning (known as a denotation), with what that word or phrase specifically denotes. The connotation essentially relates to how anything may be associated with a word or phrase, for example, an implied value judgement or feelings.

  • A connotative person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willed shows admiration for the level of someone's will, while pig-headed denotes frustration in dealing with someone. Likewise, used car and previously owned car have the same literal meaning, but many dealerships prefer the latter, since it is thought to have fewer negative feelings.
  • It is often useful to avoid words with strong connotations (especially disparaging ones) when striving to achieve a neutral point of view. A desire for more positive connotations, or fewer negative ones, is one of the main reasons for using euphemisms.[1]


On logic and in some branches of semantics, connotation is more or less synonymous with intension. Connotation is often contrasted with denotation, which is more or less synonymous with extension. Alternatively, the connotation of the word may be thought of as the set of all its possible referents (as opposed to merely the actual ones). A word's denotation is the collection of things it refers to; its connotation is what it implied about the things it is used to refer to. The denotation of dog is (something like) four-legged canine carnivore. So saying "you are a dog" would imply that you were ugly or aggressive rather than stating that you were canine.


  1. Note that not all theories of linguistic meaning honor the distinction between literal meaning and (this kind of) figurative. (See Literal and figurative language.)

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External links

Meaning for psychologists
Aspects of meaning
Associative processes | Linguistic meaning | Non-linguistic meaning | Semiotics | Meaning as knowledge | Meaning as epistemology | Meaning as values | Meaning as a value system | Semiosis | Meaning as definition | |[[Meaning as the relationship between Ontology and Truth]] |;|[[]] | |[[]] |[[]] |
Approaches to Meaning
General semantics | Semantics | Social construction of meaning | Verifiability theory of meaning |
Fine grain aspects
Analogy | Connotations | Contextual associations |Denotation | Extension |Extensional definition | Figurative language |Intensional definition | Metacommunicative competence | Metaphor |Semantic generalization |Subtext | Word meaning |
Meaning in clinical settings * Comprehension (logic)
Interpretation | Reframing (NLP) | Cognitive therapy |Therapeutic metaphor | Insight |Insight phenomenology | Existential therapy |Narrative therapy |
Techniques for evaluating meaning
Discourse analysis | Hermeneutics | Content analysis |
Prominant workers in The field of meaning|-
[[]] | Saussure | [[]] | [[]] |

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