de·​no·​ta·​tion | \ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən \

Definition of denotation 

1 : an act or process of denoting

2 : 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

3a : a denoting term : name

b : 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

4 : 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

The controlled denotations break large rock into smaller pieces to create a path for the freeway, according to ADOT. Laura Gómez, azcentral, "South Mountain Freeway construction: Are we almost there?," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'denotation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of denotation

circa 1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for denotation

see denote

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Time Traveler for denotation

The first known use of denotation was circa 1532

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English Language Learners Definition of denotation

: the meaning of a word or phrase

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Comments on denotation

What made you want to look up denotation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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