Online College Courses for Credit

Connotation & Denotation
CCSS ELA Standard RL.8.4
of 0 possible points
Connotation & Denotation

Connotation & Denotation

Author: Sydney Bauer

This lesson introduces connotation and denotation.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

47 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

299 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 33 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Connotation and Denotation


Denotation is the dictionary definition of a term. It is the literal meaning of a word, what a term means.

Connotation is the emotions, thoughts, images, and associations attached to a word. It is what a term implies. Terms can have positive, negative, or even neutral connotations. It all depends on the context, how and where the word is used.


A set of terms could have the same denotation (definitions), but make different impressions on readers because they have different connotations, or they are used in a certain way to imply different meanings.


Let’s look at two pairs of terms that have very similar denotations, but different connotations.

Example #1: berserk and irrational

  • Both terms denote unreasonable and illogical behavior
  • Berserk connotes behavior that is completely out of control, to the point of being reckless. It is a more extreme term
  • Irrational connotes behavior that is simply absurd or senseless; it implies a lack of logic rather than a lack of control.

Example #2: to finish and to terminate

  • Again, both terms denote bringing something to an end
  • “To finish” can have positive connotations: a sense of completion and accomplishment (finishing school, crossing the finish line); it can also have neutral connotations (I finished folding the laundry); and it can sometimes have negative connotations: a sense of an eternal end (You’re finished in this town! You’ll never work here again!)
  • “To terminate” really only has negative connotations: termination implies an eternal end, but does not imply completion or accomplishment. No one ever races to cross the “termination line.”
  • Again, we can see that one term is much more extreme than the other, even though they are very similar. 

Source: Definitions from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Connotation and Denotation