What is the Connotative Meaning of a Word?


If someone said a room you decorated for a wedding reception was "nice," you might feel let down. All your hard work deserves more than just "nice" -- you'd rather hear "amazing" or "spectacular." The connotative meaning of a word carries emotion, more than what is in the dictionary definition of a word, or the denotative meaning.

Connotation vs. Denotation

  • Connotation can be positive, negative or neutral. Choosing the right shade of meaning for a word ensures accuracy in speech and writing. Even so, depending on the particular social or cultural context, the connotative meaning of a word can change.


  • Synonyms for "house" might include apartment, mansion, castle, shack, hovel and condominium. Each word is a type of house, but each leaves a different picture in your mind. The word "home" explicitly means a building in which people live, but it also has positive associations with it, such as warmth, safety and family.

Shades of Meaning

  • When you choose a synonym of a neutral word, it is important to determine the shade of meaning that you want to convey and the connotation of the word you choose to ensure they match. For example, someone who hasn’t eaten in three days is not just "hungry," he is likely "famished."


  • Photo Credit hjalmeida/iStock/Getty Images
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