de·​no·​ta·​tion ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce denotation (audio)
: an act or process of denoting
: meaning
especially : a direct specific meaning as distinct from an implied or associated idea
comparing a word's denotation with its connotations
In fact, the "Parks and Recreation" alum said he didn't know the word's medical denotation. Nardine Saad
: a denoting term : name
: sign, indication
visible denotations of divine wrath
… which is why many articles and essays have a "time it takes to read this" denotation alongside the title or author's name.Chris Campanioni
: the totality of things to which a term is applicable especially in logic compare connotation

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What’s the difference between connotation and denotation ?

Connotation and denotation are easily confused, and the fact that neither word is particularly common in everyday use makes it difficult for many people to get a firm grip on the difference between them. While each of these two words has several possible meanings, they are notably distinct from each other in all senses. Denotation is concerned with explicit meaning, and connotation tends to be concerned with implicit meaning. The word home, for instance, has a denotation of “the place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives,” but it may additionally have many connotations (such as “warmth,” “security,” or “childhood”) for some people.

Examples of denotation in a Sentence

The word has one literal denotation but several different connotations. The definition provides the word's denotation.
Recent Examples on the Web Language, unlike code, has connotations and denotations that make organizing it for human consumption a much more complex task, says Dr. Harbin. Leonardo Bevilacqua, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 June 2024 What does 4/20 mean? April 20, or 4/20 in its calendar denotation, is a holiday celebrated by many weed-smokers both in the United States and around the globe. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2023 Deaths are included if a person has a positive COVID-19 test and a death certificate denotation, a record of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 that progress from illness to death, or a determination by the medical examiner’s office that there is no other cause of death, Trimble said. Dallas News, 5 Aug. 2020 Cleverly staging appearance as disappearance, connotation serves as denotation. Jerrine Tan, Wired, 4 Aug. 2022 The word hacker itself seems to carry a whiff of punk rebellion, its implied sophistication contrasting with a denotation of smashing and severing. Darryn King, The Atlantic, 14 Nov. 2020 Through this preaching, white dominance in political, judicial, and economic affairs became denotations of the will of the universe instead of means of racial control. Jared Yates Sexton, The New Republic, 25 Mar. 2020 The registered office street address for Ghost Gunner, Inc. in its 2017 Public Information Record (PIR) is the same address listed as Wilson’s personal address in his denotation as director of Defense Distributed in its 2017 PIR (PDF). Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, 6 Oct. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'denotation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see denote

First Known Use

circa 1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of denotation was circa 1532

Dictionary Entries Near denotation

Cite this Entry

“Denotation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​no·​ta·​tion ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce denotation (audio)
: an act or process of denoting
: meaning entry 1 sense 1a
especially : a direct specific meaning as distinct from connotations
: a term or label that indicates something : name, sign

More from Merriam-Webster on denotation

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