It’s a common understanding that a word or phrase carries connotation in addition to its explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation. A connotation can often be described as positive or negative, depending on whether it is pleasing or displeasing to the senses.

A stubborn person may be described as either strong-willed or pig-headed; although these terms have the same literal meaning (stubborn), strong-willed implies admiration for the level of someone’s will (a positive undertone), while pig-headed indicates frustration in dealing with someone (a negative undertone).

What is Connotation?

Connotations are emotions or ideas attached to a word in addition to its literal or main meaning (the denotation). Words, phrases, or things can all have the same basic meaning, but have completely different connotations-these are the emotions or meanings implied by the words, phrases, or things.


For example, “This clothing is affordable!” versus “This clothing is cheap!” Here, “affordable” is much better than “cheap,” as the word cheap is associated with low quality.

General Examples Of Connotation

As a connotation is a meaning that is added to a word or phrase, the possibilities are endless. Many words have the same literal meaning but may convey different feelings or concepts. Here are a few examples:

  • Stench, aroma, smell, scent, odor
  • Hard, tough, sturdy, strong
  • Confident, arrogant, egotistical, and proud
  • Childish, childlike, youthful, young
  • Affluent, rich, privileged, wealthy, loaded
  • Poor, broke, impoverished
  • Cheap, stingy, thrifty, economical
  • Attractive, interesting, tempting
  • Fibber, liar, storyteller
  • Independent, unfriendly, private, and standoffish

Imagine these words being used in similar conversations. The difference between describing someone as a “strong woman” or a “sturdy woman”, for example, is that the first implies that she is strong emotionally, while the second implies that she is sturdy physically. Apply these two terms to a table – a “strong table” and a “sturdy table” have essentially the same meaning.

Types Of Connotations

Depending on how they are used, most of the examples above can be categorized as either positive, negative, or neutral.

Positive Connotation

A word with a connotation that implies positive emotions or associations. The aroma of my grandmother’s cooking, for example, evokes a positive association, as the word “aroma” implies that the smell is inviting and pleasing.

Negative Connotation

Words whose connotation implies negative emotions or associations. Changing the adjective “aroma” in the above sentence to “the stench of my grandmother’s cooking” completely changes the meaning. The words “aroma” and “stench” both mean smell, but “stench” has a negative connotation, so the meal sounds much less appealing.

Neutral Connotation

A word that has neither a positive nor a negative connotation. When talking about a pet, the word “dog” has a neutral connotation. However, the word “mutt” has a negative connotation, and the word “purebred” has a positive connotation.

How To Use Connotation?

Every sentence we hear, write, and speak has some sort of connotation. Therefore, words are chosen based on their connotations. In writing or speaking, a word’s connotation helps set the tone and should be selected with its implications in mind.

How to Prepare a Powerful PowerPoint Presentation

Choosing words is all about the intention, and words should be chosen based on the question, “what feeling do you want to convey through your words?” For instance, the word “thin” can be expressed in different ways: imagine a friend saying, “WOW, you’re so slender, you look amazing!” versus “oh my God, you’re so skinny, do you ever eat? ” The first use of “slender” has a positive connotation, implying that you look great, but the second use of “skinny” has a negative connotation, implying that you look unhealthy.

When To Use Connotation?

Proper word choice is crucial when it comes to speaking and writing. There are certain situations that call for words that carry a positive connotation, such as when a manager praises an employee, while other situations may require words that carry a negative connotation, such as when a manager reprimands an employee. The connotation sets the tone, and the choice of a word can have a dramatic impact on a sentence’s meaning. Read on for two examples.

  • “The woman slammed the door behind her, threw her bag on the floor, and slumped into a kitchen chair. She poured herself some much-needed wine.”
  • “The woman closed the door behind her, hung up her bags, and sat down in a kitchen chair. She poured herself a well-deserved glass of wine.”

The first sentence uses words that have a negative connotation-slammed, threw, slumped, much-needed; giving the impression that the woman had a difficult day. Positive and neutral are used in the second – closed, hung up, perched, much-deserved – giving the impression that the woman had a long but successful day.

Two very different tones can be created by choosing words based on their connotation. While the words you use to describe the beauty of a paradise should conjure positive images (as does “beauty here”), those used to describe the gloom of a slum should conjure negative images (as does “gloom”).

Importance of Connotation

The majority of words have two meanings: a denotative (literal) meaning and a connotative (implied) meaning. In addition, not all connotations are strictly positive or strictly negative—depending on how a word is used, it can have different connotations. When it comes to word choice, it is one of the most important factors to consider, both in literature and in everyday conversation.

It is true that the feelings or meanings associated with words can be everything. When writing and speaking, connotations set the tone and communicate one’s intentions – they can elicit particular emotions or reactions or provide distinct impressions about what is being discussed. On the other hand, choosing words with the wrong connotation can cause an unwanted reaction and misrepresent one’s intentions.

Examples of Connotation in Pop Culture

In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine’s conversation on the train takes several unanticipated turns because of the word “nice:”

Clementine: I apply my personality into paste.

Joel: Oh, I doubt that very much.

Clementine: Well, you don’t know me so, you don’t know, do you?

Joel: Sorry, I was, just trying to be nice.

Clementine: Yeah, I got it

Clementine: I’m Clementine, by the way.

Joel: I’m Joel.

Clementine: Hi, Joel.

Clementine: No jokes about my name, Nooo, you wouldn’t do that. You were trying to be nice.

Joel: I don’t know any jokes about your name.

Clementine holds a negative connotation to the word “nice” – it means dull, ordinary, pleasant, and has no real significance to her. Joel, however, is an awkward man who uses the word in a simple but positive way, clearly, he finds Clementine to be strange and intense, but he uses the word “nice” to describe her. “Nice” has a positive connotation for him, so he is taken aback when Clementine has such a dramatic reaction.

Examples Of Connotation In Literature

In comics, a word’s connotation is often used to make a situation humorous, as in the comic below from Calvin and Hobbes:

Hobbes: Why are you digging a hole?

Calvin: I am looking for buried treasure!

Hobbes: What have you found?

Calvin: A few dirty rocks, a weird root, and some disgusting grubs.

Hobbes: On your first try??

Calvin: There’s treasure everywhere!

Calvin is digging for treasure here, and the word treasure has a positive connotation of something valuable. For readers, valuable usually means money or gold. Calvin and Hobbes however, consider rocks, roots, and grubs valuable, and therefore, treasure. Although treasure holds the same positive connotation-something valuable for both the readers and the characters, the joke lies in the character’s unusual notion of what is valuable.


A word’s connotation is its implied meaning or feeling, but its denotation is its literal meaning. Word connotations and denotations are inextricably linked; a word’s connotation is essentially its positive or negative extension. To understand a word’s meaning, one must first understand its basic definition.

Double Entendre

There is a double entendre when a word or phrase has two meanings; usually one is obvious and the other is subtle. Comedy uses it to say something so it can be understood in two different ways, which is why it is so popular. In a typical television comedy routine, parents might make a double entendre so that their children don’t understand what they’re saying—for example, “Mommy needs her medicine” really means “Mommy needs her wine.” The difference between a double entendre and a connotation is that a double entendre has an assigned meaning, whereas a connotation implies something.


Homonyms are words that are spelled one way but have two meanings. As an example, “race” refers to a race of people, and “race” refers to a running competition, similarly, a tree produces “bark,” and a dog produces the sound “bark.” A homonym differs from a connotation since the words’ literal, denotative meanings are different; the words solely share the same spelling.


As a result, in language, the connotation is everything. Using it gives additional meaning to words and phrases, creating positive and/or negative implications for words that have the same primary meaning. Without connotations, language would be much more limited, stagnant, and rigid-in other words, boring!


What is an example of connotation?

Connotation is the use of a word to suggest a different meaning than its literal meaning, or denotation. Blue, as an example, is both a color and a word used to describe sadness, as in: “She’s feeling blue.” The connotations may be positive, negative, or neutral.

What is a connotation simple definition?

  1. An association made by a word or thing: the connotations of comfort that surrounded that old chair.
  2. The suggesting of a meaning by a word apart from the thing it explicitly names or describes.

What is an example of a connotation sentence?

He’s such a dog.” – In this sense, the word dog can indicate ugliness or shamelessness. “That woman has the heart of a dove.” – The dove is an emblem of peace or gentility.

What is an example of a connotation in literature?

A connotation is an implied meaning associated with a word in addition to its literal meaning. It can be cultural or emotional. As an example, the word “stingy” portrays a negative image.

What two categories do we use to describe connotations?

A word has two meanings: a denotative (literal) meaning, and a connotative (implied) meaning. It is necessary to note that not all connotations are either exclusively positive or exclusively negative-depending on how a word is used, it can connote different meanings.

What is the connotation of home?

Adding a secondary meaning to a word or expression in addition to its explicit meaning: The connotation of “home” could be “a place of warmth, comfort, and affection.” Choosing an additional meaning for a word or expression, apart from its explicit meaning.

What is the connotation of heart?

It is compassionate and understanding, life-giving and complex. It represents love. Known as the seat of emotions, the heart is synonymous with affection. In addition to senses of intellect and understanding, hearts are also symbolic of the soul, as well as coming will and courage.

What is the connotation of a dove?

Consider the phrase “My love is like a white dove.” The word dove has a certain connotation for most people. They are often associated with purity, cleanliness, and emerging from danger. The statement that my love is like a white dove could mean that my love is pure, it is clean, and it is safe.

What is the connotation of a bird?

Birds are typically associated with positive connotations in most cultures. People who understand the language of the bird are often able to attain special knowledge and are often transformed into birds in fairy tales. The freedom from materialism is thought and imagination, transcendence, and divinity.