de·​no·​ta·​tion | \ ˌdē-nō-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce denotation (audio) \

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 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, "How Cyberpunk Predicted 2020," 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, "The Cult of the Shining City Embraces the Plague," 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, "Cody Wilson was Defense Distributed—so who is the organization’s new leader?," 6 Oct. 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.

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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

Time Traveler

The first known use of denotation was circa 1532

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Statistics for denotation

Cite this Entry

“Denotation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for denotation



English Language Learners Definition of denotation

: the meaning of a word or phrase

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More from Merriam-Webster on denotation

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for denotation

Britannica English: Translation of denotation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about denotation

Comments on denotation

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