noun de·no·ta·tion \ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən\

Definition of denotation

  1. 1 :  an act or process of denoting

  2. 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

  3. 3a :  a denoting term :  nameb :  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. 4 :  the totality of things to which a term is applicable especially in logic — compare connotation

Examples of denotation in a sentence

  1. The word has one literal denotation but several different connotations.

  2. The definition provides the word's denotation.

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.

Origin and Etymology of denotation

see denote

First Known Use: circa 1532

DENOTATION Defined for English Language Learners


noun de·no·ta·tion \ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən\

Definition of denotation for English Language Learners

  • : the meaning of a word or phrase

Seen and Heard

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


to reflect on carefully

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